Was Napoleon a revolutionary who liberated France from the tyranny of kings? A modernising genius? An enlightened despot? The man who paved the way for Hitler and Stalin? All of the above or something else entirely?
Born into relative poverty in Corsica he rose to become a legend among Native Americans and Cubans, the inspiration for Beethoven’s Eroica symphony and the man who made Europe drive on the right.
As a result, he’s been a figure of popular fascination for over 200 years, with Ridley Scott’s forthcoming film just the latest in a line of biographies that stretch as far back as his Grand Army’s retreat from Moscow.
But stories are nothing without context, and Legacy – a new podcast from Wondery and Goalhanger presented by historian Peter Frankopan and writer, broadcaster and journalist Afua Hirsch – kicks off its hot debate on the influence of controversial historical figures with a cavalry charge of insight against the infantry squares of convention. Taking listeners back to 6am on 7 March 1815, it’s a gripping and colourful re-examination of a legendary life.
Vive la revolution! And then get set for equally fascinating insight into figures from Pablo Picasso (creative genius or sacred monster?) to Cecil Rhodes, Mikhael Gorbachev and “High Priestess of Soul” Nina Simone, who wrote some of the most defining songs of the era, but ended her life a shadow of her former self. Why do some forgotten souls get rehabilitated, while greats are cancelled? Frankopan and Hirsch’s passion for disagreement and debate make for an entertaining way to figure it out.
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