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The Age of Napoleon Napoleon Bonaparte was a very influential character in the history of France. When Napoleon rose to power, many reforms were made regarding the social system, economics, education, and political aspects. For some, the reforms made under his rule were for the better of the people, but others viewed the reforms as negative changes. Nonetheless, Napoleon will always be thought of as a powerful figure in the French Revolution. A leader from the beginning, Napoleon was sent to France for military training at age nine.
Before Napoleon completely conquered France, he had a number of early successes such as defeating the British in Toulon in 1793, and he won victory against the Austrians in Italy. In 1799, he came to France and set up a 3-man governing board called the Consulate, overthrowing a very weak system of government called the Directory. People accepted him as a leader because he was charismatic and a good speaker. France was also in a state where they desperately needed a system of order, they are in a midst of a revolution with no one taking charge.
It makes sense that Napoleon, a man who seizes power, takes control of the revolution. Napoleon also had a reputation of being an excellent military chief, which lead to an even greater acceptance to him in France. In 1802, he declared himself the consul for life, and 2 years after that, he held enough power to become the emperor of the French. The French longed for change because the American Revolution had inspired them, and there was a large gap between the rich and the poor. Napoleon valued order while he was in power. Order, security, and efficiency replaced liberty, equality, and fraternity.
He restored the struggling economy by building new roads and canals, so it could be easier to transport goods or obtain them from other society’s. He also set up a public school system and made peace with the Catholic Church by signing the Concordat of 1801. The Concordat of 1801 was an agreement between the Roman Catholic Church in France and Napoleon, for the French had been in disagreement with the Catholic Church since the revolution. The Third Estate (made up of peasants and a vast majority of France) didn’t feel that it was fair that the clergy were getting treated better than them.
It ended the churches political power and recognized religious freedom for Catholics. The taxes weren’t as high for the clergy as it was for the Third Estate. Napoleon even encouraged the Emigres to return to France. The Emigres were people who feared the revolution and fled France to seek foreign help to restore the old order. He also gave the land that had once belonged to the churches to the peasants, so they could have more land to farm with, which could boost the economy. Jobs were now “open to all talent”, meaning anyone could work in any job, no matter what Estate they belonged to.
The Napoleonic Code was also established when Napoleon came to rule. It recognized equality for all citizens under the law, religious toleration, and trial by jury. The Napoleonic Code was a set of French laws made by a group of legal experts. The rules governed all French-controlled countries in Europe. The Napoleonic Code undid some of the reforms made in the revolution, for example a lot of the rights women had just gained, were now lost. The men now gained complete control over the household and children. Another reform Napoleon made was he abolished serfdom, or slavery.
Over time, he came to bring negative changes such as how women had very few rights. He also eliminated freedom of press. When he became emperor, he could not be removed from office which was a problem because not everybody liked the way he was ruling, and they wanted to overthrow him. In Napoleon’s rule, he attempted to build a French Empire. With Napoleon being an egomaniac, he felt like all of his decisions would be for the better of the people and that he could do no wrong. He won victories over Austria, Prussia, the Netherlands, Belgium, and parts of Italy and Germany, but failed to defeat Britain or Russia.
By 1810, his Grand Empire reached its greatest extent. Napoleon was able to win victories over so many countries because he used a different strategy for each battle, so no one could predict his next move. Some say that one Napoleon was the equivalent to 40,000 troops. His Grand Empire redrew the map of Europe, and controlled much of Europe through diplomacy. A diplomacy is the practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states. He replaced the King of Spain with his brother, Joseph.
The spirit of nationalism, which is the devotion and loyalty to one’s nation, was spread throughout France. Soon, new alliances formed to resist Napoleon’s extreme power, and he was defeated in 1815. The Age of Napoleon brought many reforms in France. His reign included achievements and failures. One of his greatest successes was that he equalized the people of France, and their worth was based off of merit instead of social status.
He established the Napoleonic code, which is still in use in France and other parts of the world today. Most importantly, e restored order in France by stabilizing the economy, building schools for better education, made roads, and built hospitals and orphanages. Some of the failures encountered when Napoleon was in rule was that he violated the freedom of the press when he censored the newspapers being published. He invaded Spain, which began a war with the Spaniards. He changed the European boundaries forever. He was the first modern dictator and brought out the spirit of nationalism in France. Overall, Napoleon changed the way of life for the French and surrounding countries forever.
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