Napoleon was born in 1769 in Corisca, an island in the Mediterranean, only a few months after France had annexed the island. His father came from minor nobility from Italy, but his family was not rich. Napoleon was talanted and won a scholarship to a military school.
Rise and Fall of Napoleon
Napoleon graduates from Ecole Militaire with the rank of second lieutenant in the artillery. He was not popular amongst his fellow officers.
Napoleon quickly rose through the ranks and in 1792 became a captain.
Committee of Public Safety
Napoleon is appointed to be brigadier general at age 24.
Napoleon becomes commander of the French Armies in Italy. There Napoleon won series of battles. He became known for speed, surprise, and decisive action. Napoleon defeated the armies of the Papal States and their Austrian allies. These victories gave France the control of Northern Italy. This earned Napoleon devotion from his troops and support from all around.
Napoleon returns to France as a hero. He is given the command of an army in training to invade Britain.
In Paris, Napoleon took part in coup d'etat that overthrew the Dircetory and set up a new government the consulate. Napoleon was called first consul. In 1802, Napoleon was made consul for life. In 1804, he crowned himself Emperor Napoleon I.
Defeat by the British
Napoleon knew that the French army could not defeat Britain directly. He suggested taking Egypt. Egypt was on the route to India, a major source of British wealth and one of Britain's most important colonies. The British had great sea power therefore, Napoleons army was defeated. Seeing this defeat, Napoleon abandoned his army and returned to Paris.
Napoleon came to an agreement with the pope, which recognized Catholicism as the religion of a majority of the French people. With this agreement, the Catholic church was no longer an enemy. In return the Pope agreed to not ask for the returns of the church lands seized in the revolution. People who had recived church lands during the revolution became great supporters of Napoleon.
Napoleon created a single law code for the entire nation. Most important was the civil code. It included: equality of all citizens before the law, the right of the individual to choose a profession, religious toleration, and the abolition of serfdom and all feudal obligations
Napoleon never defeated the British because of their great sea power. The battle of Trafalgar in 1805 ended his plans for invasion. Napoleon turned to his Continental system. The Continental system was supposed to stop British goods from reaching the European Continent. This system also failed, some countries began to cheat and others resisted. In the end, British overseas exports were at near record highs in 1810.
From 1805 to 1807, Napoleon's Grand army defeated the Austrian, Prussian, and Russian armies. From 1807-1812 Napoleon was the master of Europe. This empire included the French Empire, dependent states, and allied states.
Nationalism was one of the most important reasons of Napoleon;s downfall. First, the conquered people united in their hatred of the invaders. Second, the counquered people saw the power of national feeling. Napoleon's downfall started in 1812 when he decided to invade Russia.
The Russians refused to take part in the Continental system. As Napoleon started to attack the Russian army refused to fight, and started to re-treat buring towns as they went so the French would have no food. At Borodino the Russians finally fought with Napoleon's 40,000 remaining soldiers from the original 600,000. This military disaster led other countries to attack the crippled French Army. Paris was captured in 1814 and Napoleon sent into exile on the island of Elba on the coast of italy.
Back to Monarchy
Victorious Powers restored monarchy to France in the person of Louis XVIII, brother of executed king, Louis XVI.
Between 1808 and 1814 Napoleon created 3,200 nobles. 60% were military officers, while the rest where civil service or state and local officials. Socially, 60% of these new nobles where from middle class in origin.
Napoleon Comes Back
March 20th, Napoleon entered France in Triumph after escaping from island Elba. He got an army together to fight all the opposition. At Waterloo in Belgium, Napoleon met a combined British and Prussian army under the Duke of Wellington and suffered a bloody defeat. This time, he was exiled to St. Helena, a small island on the south Atlantic. He remained there untill his death.