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Archives and Special Collections: Napoleon

Collection information

Collection: Napoleon

Classmark: MS 11

Biographical/Administrative History:

Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821), French military and political leader. Born in Corsica to an aristocratic family, he studied at the military academy in Brienne and then the École Royale Militaire in Paris. His military career advanced thanks to the opportunities offered by the French Revolution and the wars in Europe between 1792 and 1815. In 1796 he was made Commander of the French Army in Italy and was victorious in battles against Austria. In 1799 he took part in a coup d'etat and ended up as First Consul. By 1804 he had been proclaimed Emperor of the French.

Napoleon led the French Empire to a string of victories in the wars which bear his name. He dominated much of continental Europe, spreading the ideals of the French Revolution, whilst also consolidating the imperial monarchy. In 1812 his army was badly damaged in a military campaign against Russia. In 1813 a coalition of nations invaded France and he was forced to abdicate. He was exiled on the island of Elba. He escaped soon after and returned to power, though his reign was short. He was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Under the control of the British, he was exiled on the Atlantic island of St Helena until his death in 1821.


The collection consists of 59 documents and pictures, ranging from such eighteenth-century manuscripts as a treatise (in Italian) by Napoleon's father, Charles Bonaparte, on farming methods, to nineteenth-century engravings of Napoleon's descendants. The collection also includes two books: Volume One of Anquetil's Histoire de France, apparently annotated by Napoleon (but this has yet to be verified) and, in manuscript, the British signal code book for Saint Helena at the time of Napoleon's exile.

Extent: 59 items (1 box).

Catalogue information

The collection is not catalogued down to item level. Please ask to view the whole collection (1 box).

Online resources

Online exhibition of the collection

Additional collection information

Custodial history: The collection was donated by Burt Eddy Taylor in 1969. The items were purchased by Burt Eddy Taylor's family in 1928 or 1929 from a rare book dealer in New York, named Gabriel Welles. They form part of two collections: one part formerly belonged to Colonel Mark Wilkes, who was Governor of Saint Helena in 1815; the other part was owned by Sir Tollemiche Sinclair.

Accruals: None expected.

Access conditions: Please contact us in advance of a visit.

Languages: French, English, Italian

Collection Image

Signal book from St Helena

A page from the signal book at St Helena at the time of Napoleon's exile

Using the collection

Archives Reading Room

Opening Hours:

10.00 am - 1.00 pm / 2.00 pm - 4.00 pm

Monday - Friday

Contact us:

Tel. 01786 466619


Please contact us in advance of your visit. Material can be ordered in advance by emailing us at