No ‘Cold Shoulder’ in Canada!
Eleventh International Napoleonic Congress
Old World, New World: Momentous Events of
1812-1814
29 July – 2 August 2013
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

 

Canada and Canadians are noted for being friendly and hospitable and participants in our eleventh International Congress were not disappointed. The INS received cooperation from the York Pioneer and Historical Society and graduate students from the University of Toronto, all of whom helped make this Congress truly memorable!

People began arriving on Sunday and we met for drinks at the elegant Library Bar of our host hotel, the Fairmont Royal York. That hotel proved to be an outstanding venue for the Congress.

The program got under way on Monday with opening remarks by INS President David Markham. He then asked Dr. John Fournier of Chicago to pay tribute to our founder, Ben Weider.

Dr. John Fournier

INS Congresses always attract some of the top scholars in the field, and this one was no exception. The first session was chaired by one of the best scholars and most loyal members of the INS, Dr. Susan Conner from Albion College, Michigan. Except for her, the session was all Canadian! First David Raymont talked about ties between the North American War of 1812 and events in Europe, as well as the role of the York Pioneer and Historical Society.

Dr. Susan Conner

Richard Feltoe

Then, Richard Feltoe presented a tour de force of original artwork depicting the North American action. Richard is a museum curator and would later be our guide as we toured 1812 battlefields.

 

Victor Eiser of Montreal was involved in uncovering the truth about an Imperial Eagle held in the Russian Historical Museum in Moscow. President Markham was also modestly involved in the project, but Victor was able to determine the surprising secret! His efforts led to an episode on the program, Museum Secrets, in which he was extensively featured. We were treated to the opportunity to watch that segment after his talk.

Victor Eiser



Luke Dalla Bona
Then Luke Dalla Bona, in cooperation with Sadys Sanchéz Aguilar, curator of the Napoleon Museum in Havana, Cuba, gave the background on a fascinating painting of Napoleon planning his coronation that is in the museum. This was a follow-up to his presentation on Napoleon’s pistols, given at last year’s Congress in Moscow. Many in the room are anxious to see these items for themselves at next year’s Congress in Havana.

The second session was chaired by David Raymont of Toronto. Romain Buclon of France discussed the collapse of the Kingdom of Italy in 1814 and how that was a reflection of the failure of the Napoleonic system. Next, the aforementioned Susan Conner followed her long and delightful tradition of giving papers on unusual topics. This time she discussed the marketplace for cadavers during the 18th and 19th century. Her excellent presentation showed that she had dug up an impressive body of evidence. ;-)

David Raymont
Romain Buclon

Susan was followed by a very special presentation by Sylvain Cordier of Montreal. Sylvain is a new curator for the Museum of Fine arts in Montreal. That outstanding museum recently acquired a Sèvres porcelain cabaret presented by Empress Marie-Louise to Cardinal Fesch in 1812. As might be expected, this was not just a random gift and Sylvain filled us in on all the interesting political details.

Sylvain Cordier

That presentation was an appropriate lead-up to the evening INS reception hosted by David and Edna Markham in their downtown condominium on the 33rd floor. The condo features beautiful views of the city and of Lake Ontario, but of greater interest to Congress participants was President Markham’s impressive Napoleonic/French Empire collection. While enjoying champagne, his guests enjoyed seeing and hearing about the snuff boxes, porcelains, miniatures, engravings, furniture and other items he has collected over the past 25 or so years.

INS reception hosted by
David and Edna Markham

President Markham’s impressive Napoleonic/French Empire collection

 

 



President Markham and Rowayda Guirguis

 

Tuesday was a very special day as we toured a number of 1812 battlefields in the Niagara Falls region. Our guide was Richard Feltoe, and he proved to be a fount of knowledge about virtually every aspect of that campaign. Our stops included Fort Erie, Chippewa Battlefield, Lundy’s Lane Battlefield and Queenston Heights Battlefield. Of course, we stopped for lunch at Niagara Falls, a natural wonder best seen from the Canadian side.

On Wednesday we returned to paper presentations, and the first session was chaired by another top scholar and friend, Jack Sigler of Florida. The first two papers featured graduate students from the University of Toronto. Pouyan Tabasinejad looked at Al-Jabarti and what he called Bonaparte’s revolutionary hypocrisy. Then Sheragim Jenabzadeh also looked at the Egyptian campaign in terms of its role in ‘revolutionary imperialism.’

Following the break, we returned to somewhat more traditional presentations. Todd Fisher of Chicago, who is also Executive Director of the Napoleonic Historical Society, presented a paper on the battlefield of Bautzen, while John Stanley of Toronto gave an outstanding paper on the life and importance of Prince Poniatowski.

After lunch, Romain Buclon of France took over the chair. Dana Lombardy of the USA gave a very interesting presentation on various publishing alternatives to promote Napoleonic history to younger groups. David Robinson of the University of Toronto looked at varying press coverage of the British defeat in the invasion of Holland. Niarine Rahal, also from the University of Toronto, carried on with that theme by looking at the image and participation of women in the German wars of liberation. This was followed by Matthew Zarzeczny’s discussion of Napoleon in the context of other great people in history.

Following those papers, we were treated to something completely unique. Toronto’s Karen Millyard discussed the role of dance during the Napoleonic period. We were quite surprised to discover just how often people danced in those days. But she wasn’t content with just telling us the story. We then moved to a special workshop where Karen actually taught us how to dance as they did then. Not only did we enjoy learning the steps but also we were amazed at just how physically rigorous such dancing was. Those folks must have been in great shape!

On Thursday morning we took a guided tour of historic Fort York, scene of a short-lived victory over the British/Canadian forces by ‘visiting’ Americans. That evening, we had a reception aboard the Oriole, and enjoyed a narrated tour of Toronto’s harbor and islands. That was followed by our traditional Gala Dinner, this one on the outside waterfront of the Italian restaurant, Bar Milano.

The Congress concluded on Friday morning with a session chaired by Canadian John Stanley. We began with two technological oriented papers. Nathan Jensen of the USA discussed how he has been able to use his website, ArcDeTriomphe.info to research and present information on all the people listed on that Parisian Napoleonic landmark. Then Edna Markham showed a unique way to use Google Earth and other software to track naval operations in the period of Latin American insurgencies.

Edna Markham

These presentations were followed by presentations by two important scholars. Dr. Margaret Crosby-Arnold from New York presented a thought-provoking paper on Napoleon’s legacy, especially as relates to people of color. Then another major scholar, Toronto’s John McErlean gave a fascinating paper about communications during the era. Noted author Sandra Gulland of the USA finished off the Congress with a presentation on her research on Josephine, including a new DVD on Josephine’s life, a portion of which she shared with us.

After the Congress, some of the participants visited the Art Gallery of Ontario to see a very fine collection of Napoleonic era POW produced ship models.

One of the best things that an INS President gets to do is bestow the honor of becoming a Fellow of the INS (FINS). At this Congress, President Markham gave that honor to the following presenters:

Romain Buclon (France)
Margaret Crosby-Arnold (USA)
Victor Eiser (Canada)
Sandra Gulland (USA)
Sheragim Jenabzdeh (Canada)
Nisrine Rahal (Canada)
David Robinson (Canada)
Pouyan Tabasinejad (Canada)

The INS Congress in Toronto was a great success, mostly because of the high quality of those who participated. The 2014 Congress will be in Havana, Cuba, and we hope that we will have a large number of participants from throughout the world.