Address by INS President David Markham to the International Commission for Military History, Porto, Portugal, 2009
I want to give you just a little history of the INS and then talk about my vision for our future together.
For all of his life, Ben Weider had been fascinated by Napoleon. In 1994, now a wealthy businessman in Montreal, Canada, Ben, after consulting with distinguished historians like Dr. Donald Horward and Dr. David Chandler, decided to establish the International Napoleonic Society to promote a better understanding of Napoleon and his epoch. Ben felt that much of what people felt they knew about Napoleon was based on stereotypes left over from the propaganda common when Napoleon was alive and still pervasive today, especially in the histories written by some British historians.
Even though the underlying belief of the INS is that Napoleon was a major positive force in history, make no mistake: we do not ask that our Fellows agree with that, only that they do outstanding research. Our closing speaker, Charles Esdaile, is a Fellow and a recipient of the Legion of Merit and two literary awards, and no one would accuse him of being the Emperor’s biggest fan!
As you all probably know, Ben was instrumental in showing that it is quite likely that Napoleon was poisoned on St Helena. Again, we do not require that our Fellows agree with that thesis, only that they look at the evidence and make a rational, unbiased judgment on that issue.
In 1995, the INS achieved legal status as a non-profit educational organization that seeks greater and more accurate understanding of Napoleon and his times through study using proper academic standards. In May of that year I became one of the first Fellows of the organization and a member of the American Committee. Ben Weider and I became good friends and for the next 14 years we worked together to make the INS a major international historical organization. We decided to produce a scholarly journal, Napoleonic Scholarship, and he made me editor-in-chief. We produced two volumes of the journal in 1997 and 1998 before Ben decided to concentrate on placing articles and other material on the INS website.
At my urging, the INS began to produce a series of International Napoleonic Congresses. In 1997 Ben made me the INS Executive Vice-President and placed me in charge of what would become our signature activity. We have had congresses in Alessandria, Italy (1997), Tel Aviv, Israel (1999), Tbilisi, Georgia (2000), Dinard, France (2005), S ł upsk, Poland (2007), Ajaccio, Corsica and Elba (2008), and Montreal, Canada (2009).
In 1998, Ben gave over a million dollars to the Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution at the Florida State University. This money endowed two university chairs and provided for scholarships and other activities, all to promote the study of the history that has brought us here together today.
In October of 2008, Ben Weider unexpectedly died. He left an endowment to assure that the INS will continue its important work and provided for me to become its second president.
This brings us to why I am here this week. I want to reach out to historians from around the world who have not yet been involved with the INS. To those of you here who specialize in Napoleonic history, I invite you to become Fellows. Note that we do not have members; there are no dues. To become a Fellow is an honor in recognition of your contribution to the field of Napoleonic studies. If you give me a brief resume of your Napoleonic activities as well as your contact information, I will be glad to welcome you to our organization. We currently have some 600 Fellows from 45 countries.
There are other areas in which I would like your contributions. I have recently revived the scholarly journal, Napoleonic Scholarship, and would like to encourage you to submit articles for publication. This will come out once each winter and will be 130-150 pages of scholarly articles, book reviews, translations and other news.
I also would like to encourage you to present articles for publication on our website. The website offers the advantage of allowing longer articles with color graphics. It also has several hundred thousand hits a month, so there is a great opportunity for your work to be read by a large number of people.
Many of you are involved in various academic conferences and other activities. I would be delighted to promote those activities on our website and in our soon to be inaugurated electronic newsletter, Napoleonic News. Just send me the material and I’ll see that it gets posted.
Many of you also write important books on Napoleonic history. The INS gives a literary award for the top two books each year, determined by our literary committee. I would like you to encourage your publishers to submit your books for consideration.
Along that line, if you feel that you know someone who has made extraordinary contributions to the field, I encourage you to nominate them for our Legion of Merit Award.
We are continuing to hold our International Napoleonic Congresses. Indeed, I hope to hold them annually when at all possible. We plan to have the 2010 Congress in Malta. Upcoming Congresses will likely include the Czech Republic, the United Kingdom, Poland, Israel, Russia and Greece. I would be delighted to have each of you participate in any of these Congresses. Indeed, if you would like to help host one in your country, let us be sure to talk!
Along that same line, I would very much like to explore the possibility of the Commission and the INS having some joint activities, including perhaps a joint conference like this one. At the very least, let us pledge to promote each other’s important work and encourage our members and Fellows to participate whenever possible.
The field of Napoleonic history is one of the most fascinating of all areas of history. Together we can add to our knowledge of that epoch and bring our collective knowledge to the world at large. The INS is committed to that goal, and I hope you will join me in that endeavor.