The Rise and Fall of Napoleon Bonaparte

The Rise
and Fall of
SSWH14 The student will analyze the Age of
Revolutions and Rebellions.
c. Explain Napoleon’s rise to power, and his defeat;
and explain the consequences for Europe.
The Rise of Napoleon
• Napoleon Bonaparte dominated French and
European history from 1799 – 1815.
• The French Revolution made his rise first in
the military and then to supreme power of
• Never ceased to remind the French that they
owed him the preservation of all that was
beneficial in the revolutionary program.
• Possessed an overwhelming sense of his own
• He was convinced he was the man of destiny
who would save the French people.
Early Life
• Born in Corsica, an island on the
Mediterranean in 1769
• Educated in French military schools
which led to his commission in 1785
as a lieutenant in the French army
• He was not well liked because he
was short, spoke with an Italian
accent, and had little money.
Military Successes
Rose quickly through the ranks
1792 became a Captain
1794 – Brigadier General
1796- Commander of the French
armies in Italy where he used speed,
deception, and surprise to win a
series of victories
• 1797- returned to France as a
conquering hero
Consul and Emperor
• In 1799, back in Paris, Napoleon took
part in the coup d'état that took over the
government of the Directory
• A new government called a consulate
was proclaimed; theoretically it was a
• In fact, Napoleon held absolute power.
• 1802 made consul for life.
• 1804- he crowned himself Emperor
Napoleon I
Napoleon’s Domestic Policies
• Made peace with the oldest enemy of the
revolution, the Catholic faith.
• 1801 signed an agreement with the Pope
recognizing the Catholic faith as the religion
of the French people.
• Most famous domestic policy was his
codification of the laws.
• Most important of these was the civil code, or
Napoleonic Code, which recognized the
principle of equality of all citizens before the
law, religious toleration, and the abolition of
serfdom and feudalism.
• Women’s rights gained under the revolution
were limited.
New Bureaucracy
• Developed a powerful,
centralized administrative
• New aristocracy based on merit;
60% of which were of middle
class origin.
Preserver of the
• Civil Code preserved equality before the
• Concept of opening government careers to
more people was preserved
• BUT…
• Liberty was replaced by despotism that was
increasingly arbitrary
• Napoleon shut down 60 of France’s 73
• All manuscripts subject to government
• Even the mail was opened by the
government police!!
Napoleon’s Empire
• When Napoleon became consul,
France was at war with a European
coalition of Russia, Great Britain,
and Austria
• 1807 – 1812 Napoleon was master of
• Sought to spread some principles of
the French revolution
European Response
• Napoleon hoped his Grand Empire
would last for centuries
• Collapsed almost as rapidly as it was
formed for two major reasons:
– Survival of Great Britain
– Force of nationalism (The unique cultural
identity of a people based on a common
language, religion, and historical symbol.)
• Nationalism caused hatred of French
as oppressors
• French example of nationalism and
what a nation in arms could do would
not be soon forgotten.
Fall of Napoleon
• Began in 1812 with his invasion of Russia.
• The Russians would not remain in Europe
so Napoleon was “forced” to invade
• June 1812- 600,000 troops entered Russia;
Hope for victory depended on a quick
• Russians refused to give battle and retreated
for hundreds of miles, burning the
countryside as they went to keep Napoleon’s
men from finding food.
The Great Retreat
• After discovering Moscow ablaze, began the
Great Retreat across Russia.
• Terrible winter conditions; less than
40,000 arrived back in Poland in 1813
• Other European states rose up and
attacked the crippled French
• Paris was captured in 1814 and Napoleon
was exiled on the island of Elba.
• The Bourbon monarchy was restored in the
form of Louis XVIII, brother of Louis XVI.
Final Defeat
• Napoleon slipped back into France
• Troops sent to capture him, but instead
joined him and entered victoriously into
Paris March 20, 1815.
• Raised another army and moved to
attack forces in Belgium
• June 18, 1815 at Waterloo Napoleon met
a combined British and Prussian army
and suffered a bloody defeat
• This time Napoleon was exiled to St.
Helena, a small island in the South
Atlantic and would only live on in the
memories of the French political life.
Class Work
Create an annotated and illustrated
timeline showing the crucial events
in the rise and fall of Napoleon. For
each entry, explain why each event
was important in his rise and fall.
Summarize the lasting influence of
Napoleon’s rise to power for France
and the rest of Europe.

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