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Q6. What were the reasons for the downfall of Napoleon?


Napoleon established his style of rule in the countries he overran. Napoleon’s imperial rule inadvertently spread these ideas of Nationalism and Liberalism the territories he conquered. This had three effects, all of which combined to overthrow Napoleon.

First of all, the empire’s non-French subjects picked up the ideas of Nationalism and Liberalism and used them to overthrow, not support, French rule.

Second, subject rulers adopted many of the very military and administrative reforms that had made France so strong. Once again, this was not to support French rule, but rather to overthrow it.

Finally, Napoleon’s power and success up until 1808 apparently blinded him to his own limitations. Therefore, he got involved in a long drawn out war in Spain (1808-14) and launched a disastrous invasion of Russia (1812). Napoleon’s defeat in Russia was a signal to the rest of Europe to rise up against French rule, and Austria, Prussia, Russia, and Britain formed a new coalition to liberate the continent. thousands of French soldiers either surrendered or were drowned.  The rest of Napoleon’s empire in Holland, Italy, and Spain threw off the yoke of French rule.  In fifteen months of disastrous campaigning, Napoleon had lost one million men. France was worn out by nearly a quarter century of warfare and support it home dried up.

The man who just recently had ruled most of Europe now had to leave France in disguise to save himself from mobs of French people bitter over having suffered so much from his wars. This led to the formation of a new coalition that finally defeated and overthrew him in 1815.

However, despite his intentions, Napoleon had effectively planted the seeds of Nationalism and Liberalism across Europe, and these ideas would spread in new waves of revolution by mid-century. Europeans would take these ideas, along with the powerful new technologies unleashed by the Industrial Revolution, to establish colonies across the globe by 1900. Ironically, these European powers, like Napoleon, would fall victim to the force of these ideas when their subjects would use them in their own wars of liberation after World War II.

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