Q5. What were the causes for rising of Napoleon and how did he manage to dominate politics of France?
Napoleon was charismatic, a master psychologist and politician, and dominated his period of polity. To a large extent, Napoleon’s career resulted from the military and political forces he inherited from the Revolution and exploited for his own purposes.
Politically, France had suffered a full decade of revolutionary turmoil by 1799, making the government unstable and corrupt. Church policies were unpopular, especially since they had triggered rampant inflation. People were sick of this turmoil and longed for a more stable government that would make their lives more secure. Therefore, the interplay of military innovations that made Napoleon a national hero and the longing for a strong, secure government that Napoleon promised led to his seizure of power in 1799.
Further military victories, once again against the Austrians in Italy allowed Napoleon to consolidate his hold on power and declare himself emperor of France in 1804.
Napoleon was also a very active administrator, and his internal reforms did a great deal as far as both consolidating some accomplishments of the French Revolution and suppressing others. He centralized the tax system (still used today) and established the Bank of France to stabilize the economy of France. The Revolution’s system of free but mandatory education was kept and expanded with military uniforms and discipline being imposed. Napoleon also consolidated many of the Revolution’s social and legal advances into five law codes.
Napoleon largely suppressed civil and political liberties with strict censorship and the establishment of a virtual police state in order to protect his power. However, Napoleon saw equality as a politically useful concept that he could maintain with little threat to his position. One of his main accomplishments as a ruler was the establishment of the Napoleonic Civil Law Codes, which made all men equal under the law while maintaining their legal power over women.
Napoleon saw nationalism as indispensable to maintaining the loyalty of the French people to his regime. He built personality cult around himself so that the French people would identify him with France itself and therefore make loyalty to him equivalent to loyalty to France. However, by identifying national loyalty with one man, Napoleon inadvertently weakened the inspirational force of nationalism and thus his own power.
Overall, Napoleon’s internal policies strengthened France and allowed it to dominate most of Europe after a series of successful military campaigns (1805-7).