Emperor of the French
1769 - 1821
“Ambition is never content
even on the summit of
• Napoleon was one of the greatest military
commanders in history.
• He has also been portrayed as a power hungry
• Napoleon denied being such a conqueror. He argued
that he was building a federation of free peoples in a
Europe united under a liberal government.
• But if this was his goal, he intended to achieve it by
taking power in his own hands.
• However, in the states he created, Napoleon granted
constitutions, introduced law codes, abolished
feudalism, created efficient governments and fostered
education, science, literature and the arts.
• The legal and military relationship between
the Landowners (lords or nobles), peasants
(vassals), and fiefs (land).
• A lord was in broad terms a noble who held
• a vassal was a person who was granted
possession of the land by the lord, and the
land was known as a fief.
• In exchange for the use of the fief and the
protection of the lord, the vassal would
provide some sort of service to the lord.
Emperor Napoleon proved to be an excellent civil
• One of his greatest achievements was his supervision
of the revision and collection of French law into codes.
• The new law codes—seven in number—incorporated
some of the freedoms gained by the people of France
during the French revolution, including religious
toleration and the abolition of serfdom.
• The most famous of the codes, the Code Napoleon or
Code Civil, still forms the basis of French civil law.
• Napoleon also centralized France's government by
appointing prefects to administer regions called
departments, into which France was divided.
• While Napoleon believed in government "for"
the people, he rejected government "by" the
• His France was a police state with a vast
network of secret police and spies.
• The police shut down plays containing any hint
of disagreement or criticism of the government.
• The press was controlled by the state.
• It was impossible to express an opinion without
Napoleon's own opinion of his career is best
stated in the following quotation:
“I closed the gulf of anarchy and brought
order out of chaos. I rewarded merit
regardless of birth or wealth, wherever I
found it. I abolished feudalism and restored
equality to all regardless of religion and
before the law. I fought the decrepit
monarchies of the Old Regime because the
alternative was the destruction of all this. I
purified the Revolution.”
Making France Strong
• 1799, Napoleon helped to overthrow the
Directory (French Gov’t) because it was
inefficient and corrupt.
• He was named First Consul after seizing
• He set about to improve French life:
1. bring new laws together with old laws – Civil
Code – what did it guarantee?
2. started public works – How?
• Economy was still not strong – the industries
Napoleon the Emperor
• He tried to destroy democracy in France
• Became more of a tyrant than any of the rulers
of the ancient regime
• Ancient views about women
• 1804, crowned himself Emperor of France
• Complete control of the country
• Secret police force
• Controlled media, law, and education system -
The Coronation of Napoleon
by Jacques-Louis David
Symbolism in the Painting
(Examples of Propaganda - See Wikipedia)
Napoleon & Europe
• Napoleon waged war with most of Europe
trying to expand his empire in the 1800s.
• Take notes on Britain versus Napoleon –
first paragraph on p. 104.
Napoleon’s Continental System
• Activity 4-4:
• Napoleon knew that his power came from his
• He believed he could defeat any army, and did,
beating the armies of Austria, Russia, and
• Used speed and surprise to win major battles at
Ulm, Austerlitz, and Jena.
• His enemies signed the Treaty of Tilsit (1807),
giving Napoleon control of Europe.
• Napoleon insisted that all parts of his
empire base their gov’ts and legal
systems on those of France.
• He abolished serfdom, the privileges of
aristocrats, replaced old laws with the
Napoleonic Code, and encouraged
• From his efforts, many features of the old
feudal system was gone.