A View from the Saddle II:
Napoleonic Hacks and Mashups Using Google Earth ®

by Edna L. Mueller, M. Sc., FINS


Everything that happens (Napoleonic or not), happens somewhere at some time. We can use Google Earth to present or animate such geographic and temporal data. In keeping with the theme of the congress, “Napoleon and the Transition to the Modern World”, I intend to use modern technology to analyze and present maps and statistics of Napoleonic interest. Some of the topics were directly inspired by the Foundation Napoléon’s publication of Napoleon’s correspondence.

Google Earth is a freely available software programs to visualize geographic data in three dimensions. The ‘photos’ of the Earth are satellite images overlain or draped upon the local topography. The Earth can be viewed from any height or angle. Using an observation point from the ground gives a 3D view of the surrounding terrain. Google Earth can be used just for ‘sight-seeing’, but it also allows for extra layers of information. Places of interest (hotels, restaurants), photos, 3D buildings and maps can be displayed. Google Earth uses data that is programmed in XML (eXtensive Markup Language) format. By ‘hacking” or altering the XML code, one can alter what data is shown, thereby altering the original Google Earth application for one that it was not originally intended. A ‘Mashup’ uses previously existing data, maps or pictures and combining them to create a new work.

Examples of Napoleonic ‘hacks’ and ‘mashups’ in Google Earth to be presented include a geographic representation of the place and date of each of the letters of Napoleon’s correspondence up to the end of 1806. This will create a definitive map of where Napoléon was and when he was there. Some letters describe grandiose naval plans, pre- and post-Trafalgar. Are these plans reasonable or are they ‘pipe dreams’ of a non-naval imagination?

One of the best graphical depictions of statistical data is Charles Minard’s 1869 graph of the attrition of Napoleon’s army during the advance and retreat from Moscow. An updated version of Minard’s graph, viewable in Google Earth, will be presented.

The creation of the Confederation of the Rhine in 1806 is a confusing group of lands and relationships. Rather than a static map and text, Google Earth can show the development of the Confederation over time.

Finally, the Second Italian campaign (1800) and specifically, the Battle of Marengo will be examined using Google Earth. The terrain around Marengo is relatively flat, at least at the resolution presented in Google Earth. During the following years, reports of the battle were altered to suit Napoleon’s version of events. Rather than a terrain analysis of the battle, a propaganda analysis will be discussed.


Edna Mueller is a geophysicist working for a consulting office in Toronto, Canada. She uses physics to search for oil, gas and minerals such as gold, diamonds and uranium. Six years ago she asked herself the question, "Who is Napoleon?" After dozens of books in English and French, she still does not know exactly. Napoleon is a man of so many facets that it has become a subject of infinite fascination to her.