Napoleon was short in stature but left a lasting influence on the history of the world. He was one of the greatest military geniuses such as Alexander, Hannibal, and Julius Caesar. He rose from a lowly officer to the master of France.

  • Napoleon Seizes Power

    Napoleon was born in 1769 on the island of Corsica. He attended military school, and became a lieutenant. During the revolution, he joined the new army.

    • Hero of the Hour
      • Napoleon, a young officer at the time, defeated thousands of royalists, forcing their attackers to flee in panic. He became a hero and was hailed as the savior of the French republic.
      • The Directory made Napoleon the leader of an army against Austria. He crossed the Alps and crushed opposition. Next, he attacked British trade routes. However, he failed at this task, even so, Napoleon kept stories about his failure away and remained a hero to France.
    • Coup d’Etat
      • In 1799, the Directory lost control and Napoleon seized power. He surrounded the national legislature and kicked out its members. The remaining lawmakers got rid of the Directory. Instead, they created 3 consuls to rule, and Napoleon was named the first consul. He became a dictator. This was a coup, from the word “coup d’etat”, or “blow to the state.”
      • During this coup, France was still fighting with Britain, Austria, and Russia. They tried to get rid of Napoleon. However, they soon gave up, signing peace treaties with the France. Europe finally was at peace.
  • Napoleon Rules France

    Napoleon only pretended to be the leader of a “free” republic. He held a plebiscite to approve a new constitution. The people quickly approved it, giving Napoleon all the real power.

    • Restoring Order at Home
      • Napoleon did not return to Louis’s policies. He kept many changes that came with the Revolution. However, he supported new laws that strengthen the central government and some goals of the Revolution.
      • He reset the economy, creating a new tax collection and national banking system. This helped supply the government with a steady stream of money, promoting financial security and a better economy. He also attempted to get rid of corrupt and inefficient policies and officials. He created public schools, lycees, to educate future officials. These schools allowed all mall students to attend, appointing leaders based on merits, not family connections.
      • Napoleon restored the church, signing an agreement with the Church. The government agreed to recognize the church but did not allow the Church any real power in national affairs. This helped Napoleon get the support of the Church and the French people.
      • Napoleon’s greatest accomplishment was his system of laws. This gave everyone an uniform system and got rid of many injustices. However, it limited liberty and individual rights, such as freedom speech and press. This code also restored slavery in colonies.
    • Napoleon Crowned as Emperor
      • 1804, Napoleon decides to name himself emperor. He dressed in purple velvet and was crowned by the pope. Napoleon became more powerful than the Church.
  • Napoleon Creates an Empire

    Napoleon also wanted to rule over the rest of Europe and Americas. He thought of his new empire as including Louisiana, Florida, French Guiana, and the French West Indies. The key to conquering was a sugar-producing colony on Hispaniola – Saint Domingue (Haiti).

    • Loss of America Territories
      • Revolutionary ideas reached small territories such as Saint Domingue where they began demanding rights. Enslaved Africans also demanded freedom. Finally, rebels took over. Napoleon tried to retake control but disease weakened the French forces and they were defeated by the fierce fighters.
      • After this failure, Napoleon decided to give up on the Americas, selling the Louisiana land to the US for 15 million. Now, he could gain money for his operations, and the US could be a rival to England, humbling her.
    • Conquering Europe
      • Napoleon gave up on the New World, but still wanted to grow in Europe. He already controlled the Netherlands, parts of Italy, and Switzerland. Now, he wanted to grow further. The British were allied with Russia, Austria, and Sweden against him.
      • Napoleon crushed them with brilliant battles. These successes forced the other nations to sign treaties, allowing him to build the largest European empire since Rome. The only enemy left was Britain.
    • The Battle of Trafalgar
      • The Battle of Trafalgar was the only battle Napoleon lost. This loss destroyed the French naval fleet.
      • Napoleon gave up invading Britain, trying to find other ways to take over. This persistence led to his downfall.
    • The French Empire
      • Napoleon’s victories had helped him expand over almost all of Europe. The only areas still free were Britain, Portugal, Sweden, and the Ottomans. Napoleon was also the leader in some other “independent” countries like Spain and German kingdoms.
      • This empire was large but not stable, collapsing soon after its creation, (5 years).