Napoleon Bonaparte

France Under Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon is better known as Napoleon I. He was born in 1769 on August 15 in Ajaccio in the island of Corsica in the Mediterranean. He was born to Letiza Roamalino Bonaparte and a lawyer, Carlo Bonaparte. Out of the eight children he was the second child. His parents came from a minor Corsican noble family but they did not have much wealth. He died at the age of 51 years in 1821. Before Napoleon was born, France took over Corsica from Genoa city state in Italy. Later on in life he acquired a spelling in French as his last name. He began learning French in mainland France in a school and in 1785 graduated from a military academy in France. In the French army’s artillery regiment he became a second lieutenant.

Military Leadership

He was an emperor and military leader of France. In the early years of the nineteenth century he conquered many areas in Europe. During the 1789 to 1799 French Revolution, he rose through the military ranks. In a 1799 coup he attained political power in France and in 1804 he got himself crowned an emperor. He was a skilled strategist in the military, ambitious as well as shrewd. He waged a war against a number of coalitions of countries in Europe, successfully and gradually expanded the empire. In 1812, Russia invaded disastrously and after two years he abdicated the throne.

He was sent to exile to the Elba island. Napoleon undertook a campaign for hundred days and returned to power briefly in 1815. At the Battle of Waterloo, he face a crushing defeat and once again he abdicated and was sent to exile to the island of Saint Helena, at a remote destination. He died at the age of 51 years at the island of Saint Helena.

Reforming The French Society

Napoleon had brought about many improvements in the French society and France. He was a great reformer and is remembered for his victories in the military. He never wanted to abandon some of the best institutions that were destroyed in the Revolution by mistake, but at the same time he intended to retain all the changes that proved to be useful because of the revolution. It is important to look into the condition France was in, during and before Napoleon’s rule.

Changes In The Education System

Education was open only to the privileged classes before the revolution. Schools were mainly run by the church. Children learnt to give respect to religion and elders at the school. However after the revolution, certain changes were brought about in education. It was proclaimed that education was for all, for which proposals too were introduced during the revolution but no state run schools were set up for children. The main aim of bringing about changes in education was to encourage students to question and investigate. When Napoleon started ruling, the system of education in France began changing. The setting up of schools in four grades began. Technical schools, school that ran on military lines called the lycees, secondary and primary schools were set up. The importance of military values and obedience were stressed upon more at the schools. Primary education continued to remain the same as it was before the year 1789. In the secondary school, two subjects, math and science were given a lot of importance. Out of a 30 million population, thousands of students began attending schooling at the thirty six lycees.

Changes In Laws

Under the rule of King Louis there were no elections held and there was no Parliament or National Assembly. The king had absolute power and it was difficult to get him removed. A lot of laws were made by the king and people had no say in anything. Certain laws like maintaining inequality within various groups within the society and the Estates system was very out of date.

A lot of changes were brought about by the revolution. In France there was no single ruler and men or the voter elected the National Assembly. All the new laws were made by the Assembly. When Napoleon came to rule, a lot of changes were introduced. It was difficult to remove him when he became the Emperor of France. People elected candidates. Accordingly two National Assemblies were formed with the members, Napoleon chose from candidates elected by the people. Men were given right to vote however there were no elections held after 1804. The Assemblies made all the laws.

Napoleon’s Promotion As Brigadier General

It was in 1789 that the French Revolution began. The proclaimed republic of France and the monarchy was overthrown by the revolutionaries within just three years. Napoleon had taken leave from the military during the early years of the French Revolution and was in Corsica at home. With a political group which was related to pro-democracy, he sought affiliation with the Jacobins. He had a clash with Pasquale Paoli the nationalist governor of Corsica in 1793 after which the family had to flee to mainland France from their native island. It was then that Napoleon went back to his military duties in mainland France. He was associated with revolutionary Maximilien Robespierre’s brother Augustin Robespierre who was a Jacobin. Behind the period of violence and terror against enemies of the French Revolution, this Jacobin was a main force. It was during this time that in the army, Napoleon got promotion to the rank of a brigadier general.

The Reign of Napoleon I

France was involved in a number of conflicts or the so called Napoleonic wars with various coalitions of countries in Europe from 1803 to 1815. To raise funds for wars that would take place in future Napoleon sold the Louisiana Territory of France in Northern America for 15 million dollars to United States that was newly independent. This transaction further gained popularity as the Louisiana Purchase. At the Battle of Trafalgar, Napoleon’s fleet was wiped out by the British in October 1805.

At the Battle of Austerlitz he attained one of his biggest victories. The Russians and Austrians were defeated by the French. The Confederation of the Rhine and the Holy Roman Empire were dissolved as a result of the victory. Against trade with the British, Napoleon established a Continental system of port blockades in Europe so that he could wage economic warfare on a big scale with Britain in 1806. The Treaty of Tilsit a settlement for peace was signed in Prussia at Friedland by Alexander I after facing defeat from Napoleon.

At the battle of Wagram, the Austrians were defeated by the French in 1809 due to which Napoleon gained further. Napoleon, in three years, established a French aristocracy which had got eliminated during the French Revolution. He started handing out titles to members of the family and friends while his empire continued to expand across many of the regions across central and western continental Europe.