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Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

Italian Campaign

  • After the French Revolution, Napoleon quickly rose through the ranks and on the Italian expedition he proved himself as an able commander. Hearing about his successes in Italy, the French public enthroned him in their hearts and on the wave of rising popularity and his fresh success in Italy, he had become the ‘little hero’ of his soldiers. From Italy, Napoleon went within a few hundred kilometres of Austrian capital but neither Napoleon nor the Austrians wanted a war. So a pact between Austria and France was entered into in April, 1797. This converted Napoleon from an accomplished commander to a great statesman.
  • Napoleon’s effort in Italy and Austria led to Belgium being annexed and the French frontier extended till the river Rhine. When Napoleon returned, he was accorded the welcome of a national hero and raised to the level of commander-in-chief of the entire French forces.

Egyptian Campaign | Napoleon Bonaparte   

  • The Directory (a group of 5 people ruling France) steadily grew jealous of Napoleon and wanted him away from Paris, and Napoleon, who himself wanted to weaken the hold of England over Egypt (which was under British control), began towards Egypt immediately on his return from the Italian campaign.
  • Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt was not merely a military campaign but an expedition for the cultural conquest of an unknown country. Mixed results ensured that this campaign was a fiasco.
  • The French fleet was severely damaged by the British fleet. Turkey had declared war against France. And Italy had slipped out of French control. Due to all these factors, Napoleon rushed back to France.

Back in France | Napoleon Bonaparte

  • Removing the corrupt Directory, administrative authority was assigned to three counsels and Napoleon became the Chief Consul. Five objectives were fixed:
  • To establish proper order in various sections of government – Napoleon divested the powers of local institutions and centralised the powers in his hands.
  • To restore peace in the country – He consolidated the national government and declared “France needs equality rather than liberty.”
  • To settle respectable pacts with European countries – Napoleon dismantled the alliance of England, Austria and Russia against France by defeating Austria, making a pact with England and isolating Russia.
  • To prepare new codes of law – He got a code of laws prepared and organised into five types of law: (a) Civil code, (b) Code of Civil procedure, (c) Penal Code, (d) Code of Criminal procedure, and (e) Commercial code.
  • To draft a constitution – A Constitution (4th such effort in the Revolutionary period) was drafted in 1799.
  • After assuming the role of First Consul, Napoleon started dreaming of his own sovereignty. He was elected as a Consul for life and then in 1804 he had the Senate declare him as hereditary Emperor of France.

Efforts for Supremacy in Europe  | Napoleon Bonaparte

  • War and subsequent pacts with England, Germany, Austria, Sweden and Russia led him to become a ‘king maker’. A ‘Rhine State Federation’ was formed with several small states of Germany which accepted Napoleon as its saviour. Prussia and Austria were defeated comprehensively and Russia was also defeated. The only worthy enemy which remained was England. Since English power was focused on its primacy in trade and commerce and its naval fleet, Napoleon did not directly engage in naval warfare. The French were not as strong as the English in the naval department.      Napoleon Bonaparte
  • Napoleon forced the European powers like Austria, Prussia, Russia, Germany and Italy to implement a scheme of economic boycott of England. This was called as “Continental System”. Napoleon wanted to isolate and humiliate England. It backfired severely as European trade was too much dependent on English goods and the English navy, owing to its superior strength and primacy, barricaded the European ports which in return led to a slump in export and import through the European ports. This also majorly led to loosening of control of the European powers over their colonies due to the naval blockade imposed by English navy.
  • Portugal, Sweden, Holland and the Papal States protested and slowly turned hostile to Napoleon’s ideas. Napoleon waged battles against many countries in order to compel them to accept his scheme. Consequently, they became Napoleon’s sworn enemies. This scheme became the chief reason of his downfall.

Invasion of Portugal and Struggle against Spain

  • Portugal which was opposed to the Continental system and did not want to sever its friendly relations with England, was invaded by Napoleon with Spanish assistance in 1807.
  • Thereafter, Napoleon attacked Spain, as he felt that having Spain under his control would strengthen the Continental System, and faced a long drawn out war from 1808 to 1814. The Spaniards felt cheated and humiliated and rose in revolt against Napoleon’s Napoleon left to tackle other Central European upheavals in 1809 and never came back to Spain. In 1812-13, the combined forces of England and Spain defeated French forces stationed in Spain in the battles of Selmenka and Victoria.
  • The Spanish war affected other countries of Europe also. Another war with Austria ensued ending with Austria’s defeat and a humiliating treaty in 1809. In 1812, Napoleon left for Russia and the Russian strategy of retreating and destroying its own cities and villages before retreating led Napoleon to Moscow without any source of food or water. Severity of winter left many French troops dead and Napoleon’s dream to conquer Russia came a cropper. This failed campaign (owing to absence of an outright victory) dented Napoleon’s prestige and also led the other European powers to consolidate and build a powerful bloc against France.  Napoleon Bonaparte
  • The ‘Rhine State Federation’, the creation of which was possible only due to Napoleon, also wished to redeem itself from Napoleon’s control. Failure of Napoleon in Russia, led the German states, Russia and Prussia to launch a war against him in 1813. But again, Napoleon defeated the Prussian and Russian armies. The Austrian chancellor, Metternich proposed cease fire which was accepted and then peace talks to ensure peace in Europe which was rejected by Napoleon. This led Austria to declare war against Napoleon too by joining Prussia, Russia and the German states.

War of Nations and Exile of Napoleon  | Napoleon Bonaparte

  • Prussia, Russia, Austria, Sweden and England formed a coalition to fight Napoleon. In 1813, Napoleon was able to defeat Austria but subsequently met a shameful defeat in Leipzig. This war shattered his vast empire and his military power. After sustaining defeats, Napoleon signed a treaty at Fontainebleau in 1814 and relinquished the throne of France. He was made a ruler of Elba Island and awarded a yearly pension.
  • The Bourbon dynasty rule (Louis XVIII) was restored in France and its geographical boundary was redrawn as it was in 1792. Majority of its colonies were returned to it. After about 10 months of the Bourbon dynasty rule, Napoleon grabbed an opportunity to return to France (expressly prohibited to him under the terms of the Treaty of Fontainebleau) sensing the public discontentment against the misrule of Louis XVIII and disagreement among the nations. On his arrival he was accorded a warm welcome by the French public and people joined his army. Napoleon again became the Emperor of France. Representatives of allied nations at Vienna again plunged into preparations of war and obliterated their differences.
  • On June 15th 1815, a decisive battle of Waterloo was fought in which Napoleon was defeated and imprisoned. He was subsequently deported to St Helena, an island in the Atlantic, to lead an exiled life where he died in 1821.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte

World History

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