Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military and political leader who
rose to prominence during the French Revolution and its associated
wars. As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 until
1814, and again in 1815.
Napoleon dominated European affairs for nearly two decades while
leading France against a series of coalitions in the Revolutionary
Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.
He won several of these wars and the vast majority of his battles,
rapidly conquering most of continental Europe before his ultimate
defeat in 1815.
Napoleon implemented several liberal reforms across Europe,
including the abolition of feudalism , the establishment of legal
equality and religious toleration, and the legalization of divorce.
His lasting legal achievement, the Napoleonic Code , has been
adopted by dozens of nations around the world.
From 1803 to 1815, France was engaged in the Napoleonic Wars, a series of
major conflicts with various coalitions of European nations. In 1803, partly
as a means to raise funds for future wars, Napoleon sold France’s Louisiana
Territory in North America to the newly independent United States for $15
million, a transaction that later became known as the Louisiana Purchase.
In October 1805, the British wiped out Napoleon’s fleet at the Battle of
Trafalgar. However, in December of that same year, Napoleon achieved
what is considered to be one of his greatest victories at the Battle of
Austerlitz, in which his army defeated the Austrians and Russians. The
victory resulted in the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire and the
creation of the Confederation of the Rhine.
Beginning in 1806, Napoleon sought to wage large-scale economic warfare
against Britain with the establishment of the so-called Continental System
of European port blockades against British trade. In 1807, following
Napoleon’s defeat of the Russians at Friedland in Prussia, Alexander I
(1777-1825) was forced to sign a peace settlement, the Treaty of Tilsit. In
1809, the French defeated the Austrians at the Battle of Wagram, resulting
in further gains for Napoleon.
The political instability of the Directory paved the way for the rise of a
military dictator, Napoleon Bonaparte.
In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte returned from the Egyptian
Campaign. Successful in suppressing uprisings against the
government and victorious in his Italian campaigns.
Bonaparte was known as an excellent strategist who had gained the
respect of his men through bravery and courage under fire, meticulous
planning and an unconventional approach to warfare. Despite defeats
in Egypt, Napoleon returned to a hero’s reception.
Outmanoeuvring the government and supported by his army he
collaborated in a coup d’état to overthrow the Directory and establish
By 1800 Napoleon had become the First Consul of France, and was
now in a position of total power.
Reforms and the Napoleonic Code
Controlled prices, encouraged industry and built roads
and canals to restore economic prosperity.
Made peace with the Catholic Church.
Equality of all citizens, religious toleration.
However, women lost most of their newly gained
A New European Empire
Napoleon annexed, or added outright to France lands including the
Netherlands, Belgium, parts of Italy and Germany.
The Battle of Trafalgar
French naval defeat at the hands of the British.
The Continental System
Economic warfare waged against the British by closing European
ports to British goods. The British responded with its own
This plan did not defeat the British, instead resent grew as prices
throughout Europe rose.
The Battle of Waterloo was fought on Sunday, 18 June 1815, near Waterloo
in present-day Belgium, then part of the United Kingdom of the
After returning from exile Napoleon fought the British and Prussian armies
at Waterloo, Belgium. The French lost in a day long battle and Napoleon
was forced into exile again.
Gathering of Leaders
Dignitaries from Austria, Russia, Britain and France met
after the battle of Waterloo.
Goals of the Congress
Create a lasting peace between the four nations. By
legitimacy, or restoring monarchies, Europe was returned
to the “status quo.”
Balance of Power
A policy that no one state should be in the position to
threaten the independence of another.
The rule of napoleon in France initiated a new political,
judicial and administrative reforms. His code napoleon
inspired the judicial system of France and other
This code was the greatest contribution of napoleon.