Saturday, December 13, 2008

"Napoleon in Egypt" Lecture

Four days ago I took a break from my Christmas shopping and attended "Napoleon's Egyptian Campaign," a lecture given by J. David Markham. This event took place at the Tacoma Art Museum and was intended as a tie-in for two exhibits: "Oasis: Western Dreams of the Ottoman Empire" and "Napoleon on the Nile: Soldiers, Artists, and the Rediscovery of Egypt." Both exhibits are on loan until 4 Jan 09 from the Dahesh Museum of Art in New York. The "Oasis" exhibit is on display at the Tacoma Art Museum, while "Napoleon on the Nile" can be seen at the Frye Art Museum in Seattle.

J. David Markham is a world-renown Napoleonic scholar and is the president of the International Napoleonic Society. His recent book, pictured here, is "Napoleon for Dummies." I have yet to read it, but all the reviewers give it a 5-star rating.

While I can't comment on David Markham's latest contribution to Napoleonic History at this time, I can discuss his lecture. First, if you discover Mr. Markham is scheduled to speak in your local area, then call-in sick that day and attend! Even though I was already familiar with Napoleon's Campaign in Egypt and Syria, I found him to be a dynamic and engaging speaker. He's the rare kind of historian that truly brings history alive. Unfortunately there are too few history teachers and professors like him, especially in the K-12 grades, where most kids get turned-off from studying "a bunch of dead guys."

The central theme of his lecture was this:

Most of what we know about Ancient Egypt was due to Napoleon's army traipsing around the sands of the Nile. Napoleon sailed to Egypt in 1798 with 25-30,000 troops with the hopes of threatening England's colonies in India. Militarily the campaign was a failure and ended in Aug 1801 when General Menou surrendered the remnants of the French Army-of-Egypt to the British. (Napoleon returned to France in 1799, while his second-in-command, Kleber, was assassinated by a Syrian in June 1800). However the Egyptian Expedition not only consisted of soldiers--and Pauline Foures, who eventually became Napoleon's mistress--but numerous scientists, artists and scholars as well. It was during this campaign that the Rossetta Stone, the key to understanding Egyptian Hieroglyphics, was discovered.

I bought a copy of "Napoleon for Dummies" in the museum's gift shop and had it autographed. During the book signing I spent a few minutes chatting with him about another Napoleonic scholar, the late David Chandler, who was a friend of Markham's. Unfortunately I couldn't stay much longer as I had to get back to my Christmas shopping...

You can find David Markham's web page by clicking on the "Napoleonic History" Link under my Historical Sites Section.

The Tacoma Art Museum

The Frye Art Museum

Note: According to this site, David Markham will be giving this lecture at the Frye Art Museum on 3 Jan 09 at 2:00 PM.

Dahesh Museum of Art


The Gonk said...

Check out JDM's podcast at Napoleon 101, as well:

Stern Rake Studio said...

I already have a link! Thanks! I'm sorry I didn't see your comment until now.