Nearly 200 years after his death, Napoleon Bonaparte is finally getting the greatest honor our age can bestow: his own theme park. Napoleonland -- stop laughing -- was concocted by a former French minister to rival Disneyland in its immersive fun and totemic cultural status. Shopping! Dining! Re-enactments of the Battle of Austerlitz! Not a bad rehabilitation for an all-conquering megalomaniacal exiled emperor.
Truth be told, there's a serious lesson to be found in the fact that Europe will soon have a Napoleonland -- but never, for instance, a Hitlerworld. Unfortunately, Anglo-Americans are apt to unfavorably compare the head of the First French Empire to the leader of the Third German Reich. "A country which can still partly revere such a man surely has a problem," says British journalist Stephen Glover of France and Bonaparte. "We would probably be wrong to equate Napoleon with 20th century totalitarian monsters such as Hitler and Stalin, but he was nonetheless a new sort of terrifying leader" with what Glover calls a "destructive will." Historian Victor Davis Hanson does come close to equating the two, associating "the nightmarish spread of Napoleon's Continental System and the Third Reich" with the longing of "self-described European 'visionaries'" to unite Europe's peoples "under one grand -- and undemocratic -- system, willingly or not." And Claude Ribbe, a member of France's own human rights commission, even blasts Napoleon as genocidal.