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Q4. How did France’s neighbours respond to the French revolution and the resultant changes in French political system? Describe the conditions leading to rising of Napolean Bonaparte and his military conquests.


Every government in Europe was based on privilege. France had destroyed feudalism and monarchy and founded new institutions based on liberty and equality, whereas in neighboring countries the old way of life remained. If these ideas were applied, the entire old order of Europe would be destroyed.

Fearing the spread neighboring countries issued the Declaration of Pillnitz, which insisted that the French return Louis XVI to the throne. French leaders interpreted the declaration as hostile, so the Girondin-led assembly declared war on Austria and Prussia.

The people of France were soon involved in a war to defend the Revolution and the nation. Many nobles and clerics fled the country and encouraged foreign governments to intervene in France against the Revolution. The king and queen tried to escape from France but were brought back as captives and traitors.

The old National Assembly was replaced by a Legislative Assembly. This Assembly took over the property of those people who had fled. It sent word to the Austrian emperor, who was mobilizing support against France to renounce every treaty directed against the French nation. When the emperor refused, the Legislative Assembly declared war.

Soon France was fighting Austria, Prussia, and Savoy in Italy. The three were supported by an army of the French exiles. This was followed by a declaration of war against Britain, Holland, Spain and Hungary. The French revolutionaries offerred ‘fraternity and assistance’ to all people wishing to destroy the old order in their countries.

From 1792 to 1815, France was engaged in war almost continuously. It was a war between France and other states. Some historians have termed it as an international civil war because it was fought between revolutionary France and countries upholding the old order. In this war, France fought alone. Until Napoleon became emperor, almost every enlightened person in the world sympathized with the French Revolution.


The conditions leading to rising of Napolean Bonaparte and his military conquests.

The execution of Jacobin leader Robespierre saw  governmental restructuring leading to the new Constitution of 1795 and a significantly more conservative National Convention. To control executive responsibilities and appointments, a group known as the Directory was formed.

On the military front Committee of Public Safety’s war effort was realizing great success. French armies, especially those led by young general Napoleon Bonaparte, were making progress in nearly every direction. Between 1793 and 1796 French armies conquered almost all of Western Europe. When Napoleon pressed on to Malta, Egypt and Syria (1797-99), the French were ousted from Italy.

He arrived in time to lead a coup against the Directory in 1799, eventually stepping up and naming himself “first consul”—effectively, the leader of France. With Napoleon at the helm, the Revolution ended, and France entered a fifteen-year period of military rule.

After Napoleon seized power, France recovered the territories she had lost and defeated Austria in 1805, Prussia in 1806, and Russia in 1807. On the sea the French could not score against the stronger British navy.

Finally, an alliance of almost all Europe defeated France at Leipzig in 1813. These allied forces later occupied Paris, and Napoleon was defeated. His attempt at recovery was foiled at the battle of Waterloo in June 1815. The peace settlement, which involved all Europe, took place at the Congress of Vienna. After the defeat of Napoleon, the old ruling dynasty of France was restored to power. However, within a few years, in 1830, there was another outbreak of revolution. In 1848, the monarchy was again overthrown though it soon reappeared. Finally, in 1871, the Republic was again proclaimed.

Napoleon’s rise to power was a step backward. However, though he destroyed the Republic and established an empire, the idea of the republic could not be destroyed.

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