Mapping out future Victories: Information Management by Napoleon’s Dépôt général de la Guerre, 1800-14

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For Napoleon’s military campaigns, accurate geographical information on potential theatres of war was paramount. The indispensable maps, topographical memoirs and land survey reports were gathered, organized and synthesized by the Dépôt général de la Guerre to be communicated to the Emperor’s personal topographical bureau and, in times of war, to the army commanders in the field. As a bureau within the pre-eminent Ministry of War in Paris, the Dépôt général was part of a modern, Weberian-type bureaucracy. But this in itself does not reveal whether this agency actually succeeded in carrying out its assigned tasks adequately. To assess this, the workings of the Dépôt général were analyzed from the perspective of information management, being an essential feature of modernity. The years of the Emperor’s uninterrupted military victories yielded a rich harvest of geographical materials, seized from vanquished enemies in anticipation of future campaigns. The near-continuous warfare also created an immense demand which, however, proved much harder to meet. Although chronically understaffed, the Dépôt général was nonetheless able to fulfill its tasks effectively and efficiently. Only in the last years of Napoleon’s Empire, when the tables turned, did the workload grow out of proportion and the information management process become irremediably disrupted.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages25
JournalEuropean Review of History/Revue Europeenne d'Histoire
Publication statusPublished - 06 Jun 2018


  • Information management
  • Military information
  • Cartography
  • Napoleonic Warfare
  • Napoleonic bureaucracy


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