Alexandre Dumas' famous anecdote about Fake News in the 1800s has a surprising twist
- Unfazed by his first defeat, Napoleon swept back into power in 1815, going from exile to emperor within a single month.
- Parisian newspapers scrambled to adapt: at the start of that month, Napoleon was a 'cannibal'; at the end, 'His Majesty'.
- For the first time ever, this map illustrates the spatial dimension of that shift – but the anecdote, made famous by Dumas, has a twist.
Napoleon's return<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUwNzUyMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTQyMTk2NH0.l0fMraZJdCs0DXT5PvMVGi59tQh48XyKzUDf-GsB7Lc/img.png?width=980" id="8590f" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="582486983fc34779beeb1d20eacafe17" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Detail from \u2018D\u00e9barquement de Napol\u00e9on\u2019. Colored wood engraving by Fran\u00e7ois Georgin (1801-63). Print on paper." />
1 March 1815: Napoleon lands at Golfe-Juan. Detail from 'Débarquement de Napoléon' by François Georgin.
"The ultimate monument to journalism"<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzUwNzU1OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDk5NjA1MX0.nOCJaZiMApEHtLmroT8SICpovVDHKvU-_HO5rHH056I/img.jpg?width=980" id="8cb81" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2a394f4f07c46dd8fb10bcbf67c6f0a" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Photographic portrait from 1855 of Alexandre Dumas (1802-1870) by Gaspard-F\u00e9lix Tournachon, a.k.a. Nadar (1820-1910)." />
In Une année à Florence (1841), Alexandre Dumas (pictured by Nadar in 1855) took a critical look at the attitudes of the Parisian press to Napoleon's return.
Image: public domain<p>In 1841, Alexandre Dumas <em>père</em> published a travelogue called <em>Une année à Florence</em> ('A year in Florence'). It contained a reflection on the believability of newspaper headlines, based on the reports on Napoleon's return to power in the Paris-based newspaper <em>Moniteur Universel </em>in March 1815. </p><p><span></span>As the official journal of the French government, that paper was hostile to Napoleon, at least when he started his campaign. Dumas notes that the its attitude shifted as the deposed Emperor approached the seat of power: </p><p><span></span>"If you want to follow his victory march to Paris, you only have to consult the <em>Moniteur</em>. To guide our readers in this historical research, we will provide a rather curious sample. Step by step, it represents Napoleon's march towards Paris and shows the change his advance produces in the attitude of the newspaper."</p><p>Dumas then lists ten headlines which prove his point. Below are the original French headlines, plotted on the map are the English translations. For the first time ever, this map provides a spatial dimension to the shifting attitudes of the <em>Moniteur</em>. </p><ul><li><em>L'anthropophage est sorti de son repaire.</em></li><li><em>L'ogre de Corse vient de débarquer au golfe Juan.</em></li><li><em>Le tigre est arrivé à Gap. </em></li><li><em>Le monstre a couché à Grenoble. </em></li><li><em>Le tyran a traversé Lyon. </em></li><li><em>L'usurpateur a été vu à soixante lieues de la capitale. </em></li><li><em>Bonaparte s'avance à grands pas, mais il n'entrera jamais dans Paris. </em></li><li><em>Napoléon sera demain sous nos remparts. </em></li><li><em>L'empereur est arrivé à Fontainebleau.</em></li><li><em>Sa Majesté Impériale et Royale a fait hier son entrée en son château des Tuileries au milieu de ses fidèles sujets.</em></li></ul>Dumas concludes: "This is the ultimate monument to journalism. It need not do anything else, for it won't do anything better."
When legend becomes fact<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzU0MDQwOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwMTYxNDY3NH0.5MRM0RKVXTZLiwSc8UkRCjMHMR6RqBnOQykxHrUxH5M/img.png?width=980" id="22c7e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3b8d9a5201ab19c38bfab18c83aa73c0" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bMap by Frank Jacobs & Carrie Osgood illustrating Napoleon's return to Paris, from 1 to 20 March 1815." />
For the first time, a map that shows Napoleon's lightning march to retake power in Paris, and the headlines that accompanied him there.
Image: Frank Jacobs & Carrie Osgood<p>The <em>Moniteur Universel</em> was known as <em>le journal de la pensée officielle</em>, i.e. the record of 'official thought'. Perhaps not so different to the 'mainstream media' of today. In fact, some have drawn parallels between the <em>Moniteur</em>'s initial dismissiveness of Napoleon's return, and the U.S. media's inability to comprehend Trump's march to victory in 2016. For that reason, and to illustrate the larger point that truth and journalism should not be mistaken for each other, the Dumas anecdote is regularly dusted off.<br></p><p><span></span>However, the story has another layer – and a two other important lessons about journalism. </p><p><span></span>Lesson number one: Check your sources. The entire run of the <em>Moniteur Universel</em> <a href="https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/cb34452336z/date.item" target="_blank">can be consulted online</a> via the <a href="https://www.bnf.fr/fr" target="_blank">French National Library</a>, including the relevant daily editions from 1 to 20 March 1815. They do not contain the titles that Dumas uses. In fact, as the journal of record, the <em>Moniteur</em> mainly published decrees, statutes and ordinances – nothing quite as lurid as the headlines quoted by Dumas. </p><p>In <em>Les Cent-Jours: Légende et réalité</em> (1983), French historian George Blond after extensive research is forced to conclude that "although the Emperor was insulted and dismissed as an adventurer or evildoer in some newspaper commentaries, this legendary series of newspaper headlines never did exist."</p><p>Of course, that won't stop the Dumas anecdote from resurfacing. And that second lesson is perhaps the ultimate one this anecdote can teach us about journalism: that the media – mainstream or otherwise – can't resist a good story. In the words of newspaperman Maxwell Scott in the John Ford western <em>The Man who Shot Liberty Vallance</em>: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."</p><p><em><br></em></p><p><em>Many thanks to <a href="https://carrieosgood.com/" target="_blank">Carrie Osgood</a>, who produced the map to complement Alexandre Dumas' anecdote. </em><em>The map is available for purchase on her <a href="https://dataworldatlas.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">online store</a> in two versions, the <a href="https://dataworldatlas.com/posters.html#!/Napoleon-Map/p/239541152/category=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">basic map</a> (as shown above) and the <a href="https://dataworldatlas.com/posters.html#!/Napoleon-Map-&-Story/p/239559061/category=0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">map with the story</a> (as shown below).</em><br></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1050</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em><br></p>
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How Nobel Prize winner physicist Lev Landau ranked the best physics minds of his generation.
- Nobel-Prize-winning Soviet physicist Lev Landau used a scale to rank the best physicists of the 20th century.
- The physicist based it on their level of contribution to science.
- The scale was logarithmic, with each level being 10 times more valuable.
Rank 0.5 – Albert Einstein<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0NDY3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjI2NTU4OH0.FtBYC7oJz-ZOiiGC9y0Z50_JvQChmp-ONa3jhR3SuLA/img.jpg?width=980" id="d6f66" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="61288810a4f035ec2af8957fad4e9015" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Albert Einstein With Displaced Children From Concentration Camps. 1949.
Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images
Rank 1<p>The group in this class of the smartest physicists included the top minds that developed the theories of quantum mechanics.</p><p><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Werner_Heisenberg" target="_blank">Werner Heisenberg</a> (1901 - 1976) - a German theoretical physicist, who's achieved pop-culture fame by being the name of Walter White's alter ego in <em>Breaking Bad</em>. He is known for the Heiseinberg Uncertainty Principle and his 1932 Nobel Prize award flatly states it was for nothing less than "the creation of quantum mechanics".</p><p><a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erwin_Schr%C3%B6dinger" target="_blank">Erwin Schrödinger</a> (1887 - 1961) - an Austrian-Irish physicist who gave us the infamous "Schroedinger's Cat" thought experiment and other mind-benders from quantum mechanics. The Nobel-prize-winner's <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schr%C3%B6dinger_equation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Schrödinger equation</a> calculates the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave_function" target="_blank">wave function</a> of a system and how it changes over time. </p>
Erwin Schrödinger. 1933.
Satyendra Nath Bose. 1930s.
Enrico Fermi. 1950s.
Rank 2.5<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQ0NDcwNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NDE1MDIxM30.Eg6tca61EredHxjqNH29HY3UeJbgBVa1nA13EhXTooU/img.jpg?width=980" id="90f86" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="0f1e6c5e13263a77b2061e1191fd8baf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Lev Landau. 1962.<p><strong>Rank 2.5</strong> is where Landau initially ranked himself, rather modestly, thinking he didn't produce any foundational accomplishments. He later moved his prominence, as his achievement mounted, to the higher <strong>1.5.</strong></p>
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