Talk:Nation of shopkeepers

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The quote as given was wrong, and differs significantly from what Adam Smith's meaning. I corrected it to what the man actually said, and explained that the attribution to Napoleon was uncertain..

I've heard it associated with Benjamin Franklin, but this may be wrong.

--GwydionM 18:49, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

Ooops, the other version wasn't wrong, it was what Smith said in the first edition. Corrected my mistake. --GwydionM 18:22, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

UK or England?Edit

Surely "Angleterre" refers to England, NOT the United Kingdom. I always understood the quote to imply just England. 21:47, 15 September 2006 (UTC)

- Indeed. Surely if he'd meant the UK he would have said "le Royaume-Uni" rather than "Angleterre".

Mmm.... thinking along these lines leads me to the conclusion that "perfidious Albion" must refer only to the County of Kent, where the White Cliffs are located. But see Metonymy... --Wetman 19:03, 24 November 2006 (UTC)


Not discussed here already is what Napoleon meant by using the expression. It was a disparaging remark based on the notion of shopkeepers as penny pinching, short changing bean counters. Interesting to note that the UK now has more accountants than the rest of the EU combined, perhaps there was something in that original remark.

On the question of what Napoleon might have meant by "Angleterre", this almost certainly referred to the UK as a whole, as is currently common amongst non UK (and many UK!) citizens. —Preceding unsigned comment added by AGENBYTE (talkcontribs) 09:53, 21 September 2007 (UTC)

Petit BourgeoisEdit

The phrase "nation of shopkeepers" may have been used before the time of Napoleon, but the fact that it was attributed to him shows somehow that it was used in a much more 'poignant' sense. It is most likely correctly attributed to him in this sense, though no-one can be sure. However all things considered it is very likely the sort of remark that he would have used, France was not a country that would have been sympathetic to the English middle class, and it was to those people he was probably referring. The English middle class would have been considered as traitors by the french revolutionaries, their penny pinching ways being seen as a betrayal of working class values, and a betrayal of the working class themselves. It was the 'petit bourgeois' exploitation of the poor peasants which was seen as counter to the revolution, and even counter to progress both in the economy and in social life in general. Politics aside, much more importantly what has been overlooked are all the other contributing factors in Napoleon's defeat and ultimate downfall. I doubt that a leader of Napoleon's stature courage and intelligence would have overlooked or underestimated the benefits of commerce in influencing a nations ability to wage war. It is doubtful that the 'shop keeping class' of England would have been solely responsible for the defeat of Napoleon, though they may have had some influence on England's military capability. There are other lessons from more recent history too, that evidently small shopkeepers have much less influence during wartime than in times of peace. Rationing, nationalization, and government centralization are all examples of necessary actions during wartime. In fact even the conservative government under Winston Churchill were forced to nationalize much of Britain's manufacturing and transport infrastructure during the second world war. Without these actions it is doubtful Britain could have maintained it's war effort. Yet nationalization and centralization are seen as counter to the spirit of free enterprise embraced by the 'Petit Bourgeois' shop-keeping classes. Taking these historical events into account we can understand much better Napoleons 'jibe', if indeed he made it. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Longwave21 (talkcontribs) 09:41, 2 October 2011 (UTC)


It may be wise and informative to add, that after a little research into social & political life during the time of the French Revolution, Napoleon's comment about England being a "nation of shopkeepers" can be put into some kind of context. The sans-culotte who were one of the most radical & most revolutionary groups in France at that time, probably had the most influence in the radical stages, over it's direction in political terms. Yet many of the sans-culotte were small shopkeepers and skilled peasants, many owning their own small businesses and involved in free trade. So we can begin to see how Napoleon's comment was very poignant and very specific to the English middle classes, rather than being a disparaging remark aimed at shop keepers generally. Longwave21 (talk) 13:06, 2 October 2011 (UTC)


Hello, if you can cite all of this to reliable sources, why not add it yourself? Wikipedia is the encyclopedia anybody can edit. Thanks Bob talk 13:15, 2 October 2011 (UTC)


  1. ^ Kreis, Steven. ""Reply to the Impertinent Question: What is a Sans-Culotte?" (April 1793)".