Back by Popular Demand? Historians and the Problem of Public Opinion During Napoleon’s Hundred Days
What was the reality behind Napoleon’s claim that after his return from Elba he was swept to Paris on a tide of popular enthusiasm? And how did his support stand up once it became obvious that war was inevitable? All historians of France’s internal domestic history during the fateful episode of the Hundred Days have been confronted with these difficult questions. The first part of this chapter briefly reviews their changing responses from the first histories based on archival research to the present. The second part offers a critical perspective on the historiography and points to some evidential problems in the currently dominant narrative of Napoleon’s popular legitimacy.