This history explains how Napoleon forged a dictatorship and explores the dilemmas of collaboration, personal and political. The 18th Brumaire, November 9, 1799: with France in political and economic turmoil, a group of disaffected politicians enlisted the talented general Napoleon Bonaparte to lead a coup d'etat and establish "confidence from below, authority from above." This is the story of how Napoleon managed his ascent from general of the Republic and first consul to dictator and conqueror of Europe.
Napoleon did not vault into the imperial throne but moved toward dictatorship gradually; each assertion of new power came gilded with a veneer of legality and a rhetoric of commitment to the ideals of 1789. In this fashion Napoleon not only gained the upper hand over his partners of Brumaire but also retained their loyalty and services going forward. Far from shunting aside those collaborators, he put them to use in ways that satisfied their most emphatic needs: political security, material self-interest, social status, and the opportunity for high-level public service.