Adam Stefan Zamoyski - Napoleon
Founder member, Institute for Polish-Jewish Studies in Oxford 1986.
Advisory Board, Page of History Foundation, Vanished Jewish communities in Poland.
Patron of the Anglo-Polish Society since 1994
Active in recovery of art treasures looted by the Nazis.
Chopin: A Biography, London, Collins, (1980).
Paderewski: A Biography, London, Collins, (1982).
The Last King of Poland, London, Jonathan Cape, (1992).
Moscow 1812: Napoleon's Fatal March on Moscow, Harper Collins (2004).
Poland: A History, London, Harper Press, (2009).
Napoleon: The Man Behind the Myth, London, William Collins (2019).
Q: What is your background and what would you say is unique about your view of history?
A: I was born in New York but brought up in London and around Europe by my parents who were part of the Polish Diaspora.
My father was a philo Semite and had a lot of contact with the Polish Jewish Diaspora.
He in fact started the Arabic Horse Breeding in Israel (Palestine)
I have a slightly wicked sense of history. What differentiates me from other historians is that they regard historical figures as if they were in another dimension.
When I look at history and do my research, my view is that everybody we read and study about, is simply just a man or a woman.
What drew me to Napoleon was that I thought that I would really like to find out who this guy really was.
Q: What kind of sources do you use to get into the mind of somebody?
A: In the case of Napoleon what’s very useful was that everything is published.
The great thing about Napoleon is that he fancied himself as a bit of a writer, philosopher and theorist.
So he wrote all sorts of things. He tried his hand at novels, short stories, book reviews.
Q: What would you say is the lasting legacy of Napoleon?
A: There are two legacies. One is the Napoleonic myth which dominated the 19th century; dominated the romantic movement.
And was certainly instrumental in encouraging revolutionaries in the 1830’s and beyond.
And then there was the concrete legacy. He looked around at the world and saw that things were being done badly.
And he went about to create an ideal model state with institutions and a legal system that endure until today.
Q: What was Napoleon’s relationship with Jews?
A: There were very few Jews in France and initially he didn’t come into contact with Jews.
When he traveled as emperor to places like Strasberg he suddenly became aware of the fact that there were large numbers of Jews sticking together as a community and engaged in usury (which he intensely disliked).
Q: He does not want to oppress the Jews, but rather what?
A: His idea is pragmatic. He calls the grand Sanhedrin; and the Infamous Decrees of 1808, it’s all about controlling people.
But there was never any trace of anti-Semitism.