If you've never been to Napoleon's Tomb at Les Invalides, in Paris, then I highly recommend you add that as a sight to see when you are there. It was so memorable to me that, standing in front of the imposing red quartzite tomb, I decided then that I wanted to learn everything I could about the man. I started with Andrew Robert's book, Napoleon: A Life.
Napoleon's legacy is a complicated one, but one I feel isn't properly understood by my generation. He's most often associated with the term "Napoleon complex," which is used to describe a short person who tries to make up for that perceived insufficiency by trying to be dominant in their personality. Napoleon wasn't short; it was a piece of propaganda spread by his enemy, the British. He was of normal height at the time.
He was also thought to have been a warmonger—that he fought his way through Europe trying to instill his thoughts on enlightenment, costing his French countrymen dearly in both life and resources. The fact is that in the Napoleonic Wars, he was only the attacker in very few battles. The other times, he was deftly defending against the attacks of countries and empires.
He was a man who believed in the arts and the rights of humans. When he took power from Louis XVIII, he gave land back to the peasants it was taken from, and was committed to furthering French society in the arts. If Napoleon had won at Waterloo, I'm confident the world would be in a better place than it is today.
This is all to bring light to a passage I found incredibly fascinating in Roberts's book about Napoleon's invasion of the strategic port of Malta:
In his six days at Malta Napoleon expelled all but fourteen of the Knights (of St. John) and replaced the island’s medieval administration with a governing council; dissolved the monasteries; introduced street lighting and paving; freed all political prisoners; installed fountains and reformed the hospitals, postal service and university, which was now to teach science as well as the humanities.
It took me six days to rearrange my bookshelf last week.