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Although other historical figures had manipulated various media for political gain, Napoleon Bonaparte was the first non-monarch in the modern era to realize the limitless possibilities of propaganda. From as early as 1796, Bonaparte actively fostered the creation of his public image, transforming an unknown Corsican general into a political force capable of rivaling the government of France. From his manipulation of the French press through carefully crafted dispatches, to his founding of six newspapers, to his cultivation of leading artists and his innovative use of medals and medallions, Napoleon Bonaparte thoroughly mastered virtually every public medium of his day. Surprisingly, however, the evolution of Napoleon's propagandistic skills is much understudied for the period prior to the Consulate. An analysis of this evolution gives insight into Napoleon's meteoric rise to prominence and enhances our understanding of his more mature and elaborate use of propaganda during the Empire. By the end of his first Italian campaign, Napoleon Bonaparte had transformed himself into the icon of France triumphant and, to a great extent, it was this image which made possible the coup d'état of 18-19 brumaire.



The Genesis of Napoleonic Propaganda, 1796-1799