A quick look at the historical background of "Les Miserables" - from the French Revolution to the Napoleonic era to the July Revolution.

The World of Les Miserables To enjoy "Les Miserables" even more

A quick look at the historical background of "Les Miserables" - from the French Revolution to the Napoleonic era to the July Revolution.

Why did the "Battle of the Revolutionary Barricades," the greatest showpiece of Remisé, take place? Why did Angiolus and other young people rise up? To find out, it is necessary to know the historical background of France at that time.

This article was written by Yoshinari Nishinaga, introduced in the previous issue.The World of "Les Miserables"I would like to look at the historical background of the remise with reference to

The book provides a fairly detailed historical background on Napoleon and France, and I will now introduce some of the sections that briefly summarize this period.

French Revolution and Napoleon

David.'TheBonaparte over the Saint-Bernard Pass'-' (used in place of '-')Wikipedia.

As is well known, the French Revolution of 1789 was such a major event that even the sober and calm Kant was astonished, and it was a landmark event that changed the history of France and Europe and marked the beginning of the modern era.

The Revolution, with its mottoes of liberty, equality, and fraternity and its "Declaration of Human Rights," is still the common spiritual heritage of mankind, but such a great change was of course accompanied by resistance and reaction. In France at that time, those who affirmed this world-historical revolution and wanted to continue it with the people were called "republicans" (later, "leftists"), while those who denied the revolution and wanted to return to the old monarchy were called "royalists" (later, "rightists"). It is no exaggeration to say that the 19th century, which has been called "the century of vicissitudes," was a history of conflict and strife between the republican and royalist factions.

In addition, the Prussian, Austrian, Dutch, and other monarchies, fearing the influence of the revolution's republican ideology on their own countries, colluded with the exiled aristocracy to interfere in French affairs and prevent the revolution from being carried out. Furthermore, among the revolutionaries, the confrontation between the radicals and the moderates became a bloodbath during the years of "politics of terror" from 93 to 94, which resulted in the deaths of about 40,000 people.

It was Napoleon who ended this uncontrollable chaos by force. On November 9, 1799, after having achieved many remarkable military successes as commander-in-chief of the revolutionary army and having earned a name for himself, Napoleon issued a decree entitledeleventh month of the lunar calendarBrumer.He dared the "coup d'etat of 18 days" and became immensely powerful after becoming First Führer. From then on, he created a centralized system, and in 1802, he was made Führer for life, and in 2004, he became emperor. Hugo was born in two years.
Some line breaks have been made.

Iwanami Shoten, Yoshinari Nishinaga, The World of "Les Miserables", P28-29

The French Revolution of 1789 led to a great upheaval not only in France but also throughout Europe.

It was Napoleon who appeared in the midst of such a blood-soaked chaos.

The French Revolution and Napoleon have been previously discussed on this blog.

Masashi Jinno's "World History Theater Series" is a highly recommended introductory book as it provides a very clear explanation of the trends of the time. If you are interested in this book, please read it.

A tumultuous 19th century

Napoleon's territorial ambitions and sense of mission to spread the ideals of the Revolution led him to wars with neighboring monarchies and to victories, and he became the leader of Europe.

However, his empire, which had lasted almost eight years, gradually weakened after the failure of his expedition to Moscow in 1812, and Napoleon was forced to abdicate after his defeat at Leipzig against Austria, Prussia, and Russia in 1814. He was replaced by Louis XVIII, the brother of Louis XVI, who was executed in the Revolution (the eldest son of Louis XVI, who was killed during the Revolution, was counted as Louis XVII), and Napoleon was exiled to Elba Island.

However, he returned to France in March of 15, taking advantage of the prolonged Napoleonic Wars at the Congress of Vienna to regain power, but his return ended in the "Hundred Days" and he was exiled to St. Helena as a result of his complete defeat by the anti-French allied forces of Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo in June of the same year. Louis XVIII returned to power and the second restoration of the monarchy began, and the royalists and conservatives, including the old aristocracy and Catholic forces, were restored to power.

Although King Louis XVIII promulgated a somewhat liberal "charter," he pursued an anachronistic political policy that attempted to return to the old regime and maintained a counterrevolutionary, anti-Napoleonic stance. When Louis XVIII died in 1924, he was succeeded by his younger brother Charles XX, who further promoted authoritarian and reactionary policies. In July 1900, this radical royalist king issued a royal decree that dissolved parliament, abolished freedom of publication, and revised electoral laws.

This was what is known as the "July Revolution," and the man who replaced him on the throne as "King of the French People" was Louis Philippe of the House of Orléans, a subsidiary of the Bourbon dynasty, but the real power was not held by the Republicans but by the elite of the newly wealthy class known as the bourgeoisie.

Their priority was, of course, their own interests, not the rights of the people or the improvement of their lives. Therefore, during the "July Monarchy," which lasted for 18 years until 1948, uprisings and riots by the republicans and the people occurred frequently in Paris and Lyon. The Republican uprising in June of 32, the climax of Les Miserables, was one such event, as were the February Revolution of 48, when Louis-Philippe was forced to abdicate, and the June Riots that followed.
Some line breaks have been made.

Iwanami Shoten, Yoshinari Nishinaga, The World of "Les Miserables", P29-31

This is a rough flow of events from the French Revolution of 1789 to the February Revolution of 1848.

The February Revolution of 1848, last mentioned here, had a particularly great impact on countries around the world, and because of this revolution, Russia intensified its repression, and the following year, 1849, Dostoevsky was arrested as a political prisoner and exiled to Siberia.

The famous work "Record of a House of Death" was written based on his experiences at that time.

One might have the impression that Dostoevsky's works are difficult to read, but this work is written in a very readable style. Personally, I think it is the easiest to read among Dostoevsky's works. And the content is also very interesting. I highly recommend this work.

We also recommend the book "Days of the French February Revolution" by Tocqueville for those who want to learn more about the process of the French July Revolution followed by the February Revolution.

Historical Setting of Les Miserables

Now that we have looked briefly at the history of France, it is time to look at the historical setting of "Les Misérables".

This is an overview of French history up to the mid-19th century. Hugo died in 1885, and he lived through most of the 19th century, but the setting of "Les Miserables" is from October 1815, when Jean Valjean is released from the Toulon prison, to June 33, when he dies.

In other words, after Napoleon's "Hundred Days of Heaven" (March 20-June 22, 1815), when he was exiled to Elba Island, the second restoration of the monarchy by Louis XVIII of Bourbon, the establishment of Louis Philippe's "July Monarchy" by the "July Revolution" in 30, called the "Three Glorious Days," and the "July Uprising" by the Parisians who were dissatisfied with this bourgeois government. The period of Hugo's life is from the age of 13 to 31. ) So he experienced the atmosphere and major events of this period. (Please compare the chronological table at the end of the book between "events in the real world" and "events in the novel").

However, Hugo, in his "author's right," not only goes back to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, but also to the French Revolution of 1789, and even to the June Riots of 1848, and he also gives his own historical discussion, so the actual historical period covered should be considered much longer. The historical time covered in this book is much longer than that.

I mentioned earlier that this novel is a novel as a whole, but I would like to focus on the fact that it is a unique historical novel, or more specifically, a "political novel. In Japan, studies of Hugo to date have been conducted exclusively from a literary perspective, as in the case of the "General of the Romantic School," and the important perspective of "literature and politics" of Hugo, who was sincerely involved in the politics of his time, has tended to be almost entirely neglected.

As we will see in more detail in the next chapter, we must not forget that Hugo was both a man of letters and a politician. If we overlook the political aspect of "Les Misérables," especially the relationship between Hugo and Napoleon I and III, it is true that its appeal will be halved.
Some line breaks have been made.

Iwanami Shoten, Yoshinari Nishinaga, The World of "Les Miserables", P31-32

It is very significant that Jean Valjean is released from the prison in 1815, the year of Napoleon's defeat. And the events of 1832, when Angiolus and other young men rose up, can be more emotional if you know the background.

I cannot go into more depth in this article, but the book explains more, so if you are interested, I encourage you to pick up a copy.

Napoleon and Literature

We have discussed the remise and the historical background, but after all, not many people have had such an enormous influence on France and Europe as Napoleon. In this book, too, Napoleon and literature were discussed as follows.

It is well known that Hegel saw the incarnation of the "world spirit" in Napoleon on horseback, but the Napoleonic legend has had an unimaginable influence on French literature in recent years.

Stendhal, who even served in the Moscow expedition, left behind not only such novels as Napoleon's "Diary of St. Helena," "The Red and the Black," featuring Julien Sorel, who challenges society during the Restoration of the monarchy with his "military banner" as his spiritual guide, and "The Monastery of the Palms," a life story of Fabrice del Dongo, who experiences the Battle of Waterloo He left behind not only novels such as "The Red and the Black," but also his critique "Napoleon.

Balzac, whose motto was "I will do with the brush what Napoleon could not do with the sword," included Napoleon in several of his "human comedies," such as "Old Goriot" and "The Country Doctor. The Romantic poets Vigny and Nerval also have poems that celebrate Napoleon's achievements.

In addition to French literature, Russian literature such as Tolstoy's "War and Peace" and Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" could not have been conceived without Napoleon. Hugo's works were also influenced by the Napoleonic legend, or perhaps even more so.
Some line breaks have been made.

Iwanami Shoten, Yoshinari Nishinaga, The World of "Les Miserables", P35

Napoleon's presence had a profound influence on writers not only in France but also around the world. Hugo's "Les Miserables" and Balzac's "Grandpa Goriot," of course, but also Dostoevsky's "Crime and Punishment" and Tolstoy's "War and Peace" were strongly influenced by Napoleon.

In Hugo's Les Miserables, Marius' origins are related to Napoleon. And at the beginning of the second volume of Les Misérables, the battle of Waterloo, in which Napoleon is completely defeated, is discussed at length. Hugo went all the way to the old battlefield of Waterloo and wrote the scene there. Hugo was so attached to the battlefield that he really wanted to visit it and write about it. Napoleon was that important to him. Following Hugo's example, I visited Waterloo. The article below describes my experience.

Knowing the historical background of the Remisée, this story seems to have much more depth.

The more you know, the more interesting it is. I think this is another wonderful thing about Remisé. Fearless Hugo.

The above is the historical background of "Les Miserables" - from the French Revolution to the Napoleonic era and the July Revolution.

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