As a history buff who loves visiting France, I have previously objected to the commercialization of historical sites of a former French minister of Versailles. However, nothing quite prepared me for the new idea of former French minister Yves Jégo, who is planning the creation of “Napoleonland.” He is raising £180 million for the amusement park on the site of Napoleon’s final victory at the Battle of Montereau in 1814 just south of Paris.
We have faced our own challenges as Disney tried to convert our history into amusement parks over the objections of academics and historians. We have also faced repeated efforts by companies like WalMart and other companies to destroy sacred battlefield areas. However, this plan by Jégo would make Robespierre blush.
Jégo has suggested reenacting the Battle of Waterloo and creating a water show featuring the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar. “Other curious potential attractions include a ski run through a battlefield “surrounded by the frozen bodies of soldiers and horses” and a recreation of Louis XVI being guillotined during the revolution.” Jégo insists that “It’s going to be fun for the family.”
Since Jégo is hellbent to commercialize French history, he might want to add Gen. Blücher’s Wild Ride featuring a ride that decapitates infantry soldiers or It’s A Small World featuring burned out fields and buildings stretching from Toulon to Moscow.
Before the French allow this P.T. Barnum to trivialize their history, they should consider the huge cost to their cultural legacy.
Of course, Jégo can quote Napoleon for support in saying “History is a set of lies agreed upon” and “History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon,” few people would agree on this particular lie in the making. France has faced many threats to its existence and culture. Sometimes, however, the greatest threats come from within.