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Causes and Consequences of Napoleon’s Rule Report

Narrative of the event

  • The most significant reform by Napoleon was the legislation of the civil code or code of napoleon of 1804.
  • It was aimed at standardizing the French law. According to Hooker (1996), the code was based on two ideas namely:
    • “All men are equal under the law, but women are not, and All people have a property right.”
    • No self-government through elected legislative bodies.
  • The first case implied that no person had privileges from any of the laws, tax laws included while the second case was focused on contractual laws, which was beneficial in ensuring the transparency of private land.
  • December 2, 1804, Napoleon crowned himself hereditary Emperor of France.

Cause and effect

  • European governments gradually started to implement some of the philosophies of the French revolution. According to Hooker (1996), “European territories such as Italy, Germany, and Holland were controlled by France, without being under the direct control of napoleon’s empire.” Hooker (1996), goes on to add that “These territories adopted principles such as the abandonment of privilege and the ideas of equality under the law.”
  • Napoleon became ambitious and wanted to unite Europe, the way the Romans had done, with him and Paris at the center. According to Hooker (1996), “This led napoleon to adopt the roman culture, instituting roman architecture, art and sculpture all over France, as a symbol of the coming order.“
  • Great Britain proved to be a challenge to him, and he, therefore, instituted a continental system, preventing the importation of European goods into Europe, though it was a failure due to the power of the British navy, who instead blocked trade against France.

Cause and effect

  • In 1805, Britain declared war, where they defeated the navies of France and Spain, in the Battle of Trafalgar, under the command of Lord Horatio Nelson. This prevented further invasions by France and strengthened their dominance over world trade.
  • Napoleon appointed his brothers and sitters as monarchs of the European territories that he controlled, to bring all the European states under the nepotistic and efficient monarchy. He even divorced his wife to marry Marie Antoinette, the daughter of the Austrian emperor.
  • Napoleon’s territorial greed and monarchical pretensions led European powers to merge to contain his ambition. These countries were led by Britain and included Russia, Russia, and Austria.
  • He won the Battle of Austerlitz and went on to take over Italy, being crowned king of Italy.
  • “The Treaty of Tilsit was signed in 1807 after napoleon defeated both the Prussian and the Russian armies, allowing him to keep the territory seized from Prussia and Russia” (Hooker, 1996). In addition to this, the treaty required the two countries to take part in the continental system and stay away from all businesses with Britain. Prussia was also required to be an open ally of France.

Cause and effect

  • The Treaty of Tilsit had forced Russia into the continental system, and a severe economic crisis caused Russia to break off the alliance. According to Hooker (1996), “This is because the Russian economy was mainly dependent on the exportation of raw goods including timber and grain to Britain in exchange for manufactured goods.” The only way Russia could evade economic collapse was to “allow a trade to proceed with Britain, despite protests from France” (Hooker, 1996).
  • According to Hooker (1996), “The Wars of Liberation began due to the resistance of Spain to Napoleon after he overthrew their king and appointed his brother to the throne in 1808 in his attempt to getting Spain and Portugal to join the continental system”. In the Peninsula war from 1808 to 1814, the Spanish used guerrilla tactics since their weapons did not match up to those of France. The war prolonged until 1813 when the British assisted Spain in driving the French out of Spain.
  • Four years of continued trade between Russia and Britain by disregarding the Treaty of Tilsit troubled napoleon. With the war in Spain going on, he decided to invade Russia in 1812, with an army of 600,000 men. They marched unchallenged till Moscow, and the Russians let them take over their capital, which they turned to ash. They stayed in Moscow for about a month, before beginning their journey back to France, but winter had already set in.

Conclusion and opinions

  • According to Hooker (1996), “Napoleon’s troops found it hard to progress through Mountains of snow, acres of mud and flooded rivers.” The soldiers, who were having a hard time, were easily killed by mounted Cossacks. Others died from cold and starvation.
  • By December, when napoleon got into Germany, he had lost half of his army, in the cold, and 100,000 had been taken, prisoner.
  • This loss strengthened the Wars of Liberation, like Russia, Prussia, Austria, and Great Britain noticed the weakened French troops and attacked them. Most of the war took place in Germany. Napoleon forced were defeated at the Battle of Nations in 1813 near Leipzig. Napoleon lost 500,000 of his 600,000 Grand Army, in the largest battle in the world’s history before the 20th century, before retreating to Paris, and in March 1814, Tsar Alexander I and King Frederick William III of Prussia marched into the city and forced him to abdicate before being exiled to Elba, a small island off of Italy.
  • Napoleon’s greed and ego could not let him solidify the territories that he had acquired and instead pursued more. Though he acquired many territories within a short period, his rule over them was short-lived. He could not handle reducing the size of his territory to that of France before acquiring new land, as it had been proposed to him by the Austrian foreign minister, Metternich, in exchange for his returning to the throne.
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IvyPanda. 2021. "Causes and Consequences of Napoleon's Rule." February 18, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/causes-and-consequences-of-napoleons-rule/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Causes and Consequences of Napoleon's Rule'. 18 February.

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