Who is Napoleon?

Megna Rao, Seoyoon Kim, Alex Herrera


Introduction-Seoyoon Kim

Timeline-Alex Herrera

The Last Great Enlightenment Despot-Megna Rao

The Preserver of the Revolution-Alex Herrera

The First Modern Dictator-Seoyoon Kim

Conclusion-Megna Rao

*note: each person's pictures are found after their writing

Timeline-Alex Herrera

  • 1769-Birth

  • 1785- Commissioning as second lieutenant at Ecole Militaire

  • 1786- given command of the French army in Italy

  • 1789-Storming of Bastille

  • 1792- Dethroning of King Louis XVI/ Storming of the Tuileries

  • 1793-

  • King Louis guillotined

  • Liberation of Toulon

  • Accused of being too Pro-French, had to flee home in Croatia with family

  • 1794- imprisoned under suspicion of being a Jacobin and a supporter of Robespierre

  • 1795-

  • Insurrection of Paris

  • promoted to General of the Army of the West

  • tasked by the government with the job of suppressing civil strife and rebellion against the Republic

  • 1796-

  • Marriage to Joséphine de Beauharnais

  • Italian campaign against Austria begins

  • Victory at Battle of Lodi

  • 1797-

  • Victory at Battle of Rivoli

  • Treaty of Campo-Formio with Austria written

  • 1798-

  • Egyptian campaign begins

  • Fall of Alexandria

  • Victory at Battle of the Pyramids against Mamelukes in Egypt

  • 1799-

  • Became first consul following coup d'etat

  • Returns to Paris

  • 1800

  • Leads army across the Alps in the Second Italian Campaign

  • Victory at Battle of Marengo against Austria

  • Treaty with Austria signed at Luneville

  • 1801

  • Concordat between France and Rome signed

  • Schism between the French government and the Catholic Church ends

  • Napoleon escapes assassination attempt

  • 1802-

  • Treaty of Amiens signed with Britain

  • New constitution adopted

  • Napoleon First Consul for life based on new constitution

  • 1803-France sells Louisiana territory to U.S.

  • 1804-

  • Senate proclaims Napoleon Emperor

  • Crowns himself Emperor in Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris

  • 1805

  • Crowned King of Italy in Milan

  • Victory in the Battle of Austerlitz against Austria and Russia

  • 1806

  • Names his brother, Joseph Bonaparte, king of Naples

  • 1807

  • Defeats the Russians at the Battle of Friedland

  • Makes peace with Czar Alexander I in the Treaty of Tilsit

  • Creates the Grand Duchy of Warsaw (Poland), to be overseen by France

  • Start of French occupation of Portugal

  • 1808

  • Unsuccessful Spanish revolt against French army

  • Napoleon names Joseph Bonaparte King of Spain, and Murat King of Naples

  • 1809-

  • Divorces Josephine

  • Marriage to Austrian Archduchess Marie Louise

  • 1811-

  • Napoleon's son born

  • 1812

  • Russian Campaign begins

  • Devastating losses in Russia for army

  • Napoleon returns to Paris

  • 1813

  • Prussia declares war on France

  • The French fall to Spain in the Battle of Vitoria

  • 1814-

  • Anti-French coalition army enters France

  • Paris falls

  • Napoleon abdicates his rule

  • Louis XVIII is restored to the French throne

  • Exile to Alba

  • 1815

  • Escaping Elba, Napoleon returns in South France

  • rallies the French army

  • Louis XVIII flees, Napoleon takes control

  • Defeated in the Battle of Waterloo by the British and Prussians

  • Exiled to Saint Helena

  • 1821-Death

Introduction-Seoyoon Kim

Revered even in present days due to his military and political talent, Napoleon was undoubtedly viewed as a revolutionary hero. Yet the general and emperor also seized considerable amounts of power for himself, overruling previous government structures such as the Directory and practicing censorship, as well as exiling his enemies. Thus, he was, in some respects, a dictator. However, Bonaparte also was an enlightened despot in that he established a civic code that continues to impact politics today. Stating "I am the revolution," Bonaparte attempted to continue revolutionary ideas and remove anarchy from French government. Continuing revolutionary emphasis on education and on spreading revolutionary zeal throughout Europe, Napoleon embodied some of the French revolutions basic goals. He experienced widespread popularity until his losses in Russia through his political talents and thus followed the revolution's idea of popular sovereignty. Thus, Napoleon can be considered an enlightened despot, a preserver of the revolution, and a dictator; however, he cannot entirely be defined as any of these in absolute terms.

The Last Great Enlightened Despot-Megna Rao

Influenced by American philosophers such as George Washington and other founding fathers early in his life, Napoleon Bonaparte improved the French government by instituting educational and political reforms, thus establishing himself as an enlightened despot. New civil codes and constitutions instituted both judicial and religious freedoms including popular sovereignty, freedom of religion, trial by jury, and equality before the law. The creation of a citizen army built Bonaparte's involvement with his countrymen. Feudal privileges were abolished in an attempt to modernize France with Enlightenment ideas. As consul, Napoleon established financial reforms, centralized administrative reforms, and the installed the enlightenment principles of liberty and equality in French political culture. A massive road construction project was started under the Napoleonic Codes (napoleon-series.org). Local autonomy was subdued, and a modern bureaucracy was established. The middle class benefitted from new jobs that were open to talent and ability rather than social status. Napoleonic codes were one such example of educational reform and political reform in France. Bonaparte stressed the importance of secondary school that divided classes between students who were focused on a military career from those interested in a civil career (napoleonic-series.org - David Markham). The 1804 civil code regulated civil matters, including divorce and education, and discussed religious freedom, individual freedom, guaranteed equality before the law, and freedom from arbitrary arrests and punishments. Napoleon’s education reforms included the establishment of schools (lycées) and universities (Émile Marco de Saint-Hilaire's primary account of Napoleon). France’s administrators and scientists were trained in institutions known as grandes écoles (enlightenment-revolution.org). According to his own speech about the internal conditions of France, he declares, "New schools are being opened, and inspectors have been appointed...The lycees and the secondary schools are filling with youth eager for instruction. The polytechnic school is peopling our arsenals, ports, and factories with useful citizens. Prizes have been established in various branches of science, letters, and arts..." (Napoleon's Account of the Internal Situation of France in 1804). Under Napoleon’s rule, art flourished and the Louvre palace became one of the most well-known center for the arts in Europe. Napoleon institutionalized France as think-tanks, research centers, monuments and statues to beautify France, and bridges to secure a home for the National Archives building were constructed (napoleonic-series.org - Dr. Weider). Napoleonic Codes discussed social issues such as divorce, marriage, adoption, guardianship, emancipation, property, succession, and loans (Napoleonic Code - primary source). The Concordat of 1801 displayed the extent of Napoleon’s involvement in religious and social affairs as an Enlightened Despot. The contract between the papacy and Napoleon ended the restrictions on Church lands that were installed during the French Revolution. Napoleon reformed the Church by reserving the right to appoint bishops and award them salaries. The tensions that had grown between the traditional rural community and anti-clerical towns (europeanhistory.about.com) were broken in Bonaparte's attempt to elevate his status as consul. Thus, Bonaparte created many social, economic, and judicial reforms that characterized not only as a dictator and preserver of the revolution, but also an Enlightened despot.

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The Preserver of the Revolution-Alex Herrera

Napoleon Bonaparte’s reign was characterized through policies and military tactics that supported the French revolution’s concepts of equality, fraternity, and liberty, ultimately making him a preserver of the revolution. Napoleon’s rule was marked by a key belief of the revolution: overthrowing and eliminating the aristocracy previously present in France and establishing equality. Napoleon implemented a code known as “The French Civil Code” which reinforced the ideas of equality brought about by the revolution as a consequence of the grievances of the third estate (Rude). This code established that the rights of the citizens should be protected and provided for all citizens without regard for social status, economic status, or family ties (Napoleon). Furthermore, the code specified that governmental jobs should go to those who were the most qualified for them. This was revolutionary in contrast to the previous system where offices could be purchased prior to the spread of the revolution (PowerPoint). These elements in his leadership marked Napoleon as a preserver of the French revolution and its values. Not only did Napoleon help keep the values of the revolution alive within France but he helped extend them to the rest of Europe. While addressing the Italian army and encouraging them to fight aligned with the French he declared to the soldiers “Your property, your religion, and your customs will be respected. We are waging war as generous enemies, and we wish only to crush the tyrants who enslave you” (Napoleon). Napoleon’s promise to the Italian troops further reinforced the ideas of equality found in the civil code established under his reign. The idea that civil rights should be awarded to all not just those of wealth and property was embodied as he promised even those who were of another nation the same treatment if they would follow his lead.Napoleon's comments reveal his desire to preserve the concepts that brought about the revolution and embody his desire to expand and spread it's concepts of equality and liberty.Furthermore, Napoleon appeased the desires of the third estate, which fueled the revolution, through his policies. Napoleon established a national bank which helped provided financial unity and stability to the nation (Power point). This resolved the issues of unemployment and high/rising food prices which left the members of the third estate in poverty. Napoleon's policies lead to low unemployment and lowering food prices. These results combined with the equally distributed tax system in place kept the values of the French revolution alive under Napoleon's reign.

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The First Modern Dictator-Seoyoon Kim

Although Napoleon was often regarded as a hero of the French revolution, he ultimately reestablished an imperial reign similar to modern dictatorships. Despite his role in the French revolution, he exercised absolute power over his people, just like the absolute monarchs prior to the revolution (Staël). Characterizing him as an intimidating tyrant, Madame de Staël notes his inability to sympathize with others and his overwhelming self interest, both of which made him a tyrant (Staël). Furthermore, Bonaparte himself acknowledged his own dictatorship, claiming that it was "absolutely necessary" (Las Cases) to fill the anarchy of the revolution-he justifies his abundance of power by appealing to nationalist and revolutionary ideas of supporting the country through whatever means possible. Establishing the Code of Napoleon, the emperor did maintain some revolutionary ideas but also ensured that he had absolute dictatorial control of his country by appointing judges who shared his views and would help administer his laws, executing those who spoke against him politically, and hindering freedom of speech and press through propaganda and eliminating over 83% of French newspapers (kprdsb.ca). As defined by Britannica, a dictatorship is a "form of government in which one person or a small group possesses absolute power without effective constitutional limitations" (Britannica). Napoleon certainly fit this description by holding absolute power, not only politically, but also educationally through uniforms and marches intended to indoctrinate students from a young age and completely centralizing government administration through abusing his position as prima intra pares (kprdsb.ca). The main legislative body, the Council of the State, was effectively used as Napoleon's pawns, as Bonaparte had the ability to choose its members and thereby indirectly control his country in all aspects (kprdsb.ca). He placed his four brothers and three sisters in positions of power as he gained more territory throughout Europe, making them kings, dukes, counts, queens, duchesses, or countesses (bc.edu). Thus, he not only obtained power for himself but also for his entire family, ensuring his family's status as the ruling family. Using his popular support, a consequence of his military successes, the emperor eradicated controls on his power, including the 10 year limit, and pressured the Senate to state that the government was in the hands of the emperor (kprdsb.ca). Despite initially advocating the French revolution, Napoleon ultimately overthrew the Directory in favor of a Consulate then declared himself emperor (history.com), giving sole and absolute power to himself. As the general of the French army, Bonaparte effectively established a military dictatorship supported by the people in which he had unrestricted control over all aspects of French society. To ensure the security of his reign, the emperor suppressed royalist and pro-Catholic rebellions and created a secret police (library.brown.edu). Like modern dictators, he exercised censorship, supervising books, plays and newspapers via the Directeur General de l'imprimerie et de la librairie (Napoleon, library.brown.edu). To secure power not only for himself, but for his family, Napoleon created a constitution that ensured that his children would be next in line to the throne (library.brown.edu). Although Napoleon differs from typical modern dictators in that he did provide stability and happiness for his country, he fits the definition of a dictator due to his absolute power, popular support due to charisma, restrictions on opposing voices, and sole control over all aspects (social, economic, educational, political) of his country. Napoleon was considerably more dictatorial than George III, as George's power was restricted by a Parliament and prime ministers while Napoleon's status as consul then emperor made him second to none (history.com). Napoleon also experienced significantly more popularity, as George III was known for his insanity and loss of the American colonies (history.com). Additionally, George's contribution to British instability further weakened his reign, while France's military successes and revolutionary fervor empowered Napoleon (britannica.com). While Bonaparte easily unified his country through military conquests and patriotism, George III could not obtain enough wealth, power, or popularity to become a dictator, as his country was divided between Whigs and Tories (factions were not present in France due to Napoleon's outlawing of his enemies)(royal.gov.uk). Thus, despite both being involved in wars and seeking military expansion, Napoleon was able to become a dictator due to the initial chaos and the new form of government, which was still in the process of being developed and therefore could be used to support his power, while George had to adhere to conventional views of the constitutional monarchy, which had long been held through tradition and law (royal.gov.uk). Through the Continental System, Napoleon controlled trade and commerce throughout Europe, thereby dominating the economics of his country completely (Britannica). While he was often regarded as a hero of the revolution, Bonaparte established an autocracy and an empire through his military skill. Though he was extremely talented politically and militarily, the emperor dominated and controlled all of France, oppressing rights and freedoms that posed a threat to his power over the country; France had returned to its post revolutionary state in that it once again had an absolute monarch, albeit one that the public adored.

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Conclusion-Megna Rao

Memorialized for his military vigor, Napoleon Bonaparte was a dictator who drew upon France's weakness after the French Revolution to take power rule over an expanding major world power. Using his newfound power, Napoleon ruled over France while exhibiting characteristics of a modern dictator, including the constant invocation of fear to subdue rebellion and opposition. By declaring himself emperor, Napoleon created an effective military dictatorship that used the power of the people to expand. The emperor secured his reign using secret police, censorship of opposing ideas, and constitutions. Expanding the French Empire, Bonaparte grew as an dictator. Through the continental system, he controlled the trade of his empire. The Bonaparte's were also known for their interests in preserving the revolution. The emperor's reign was characterized by his emphasis on the preservation of the egalite, fraternite, and liberty that were essential to the French Revolution. Once ostracized for their pro-French nature and revolutionary zeal, the Bonapartes were an icon of the remnants of the revolution. Napoleon Bonaparte, however, installed the French Civil Code and the Concordat of 1801, both symbols of his education and social reforms in France. By improving the justice system, granting religious equality, preserving the Church's importance own France, and institutionalizing education by installing universities and high schools, Bonaparte renewed his status as an enlightened despot.

Works Cited

Megna Rao:

Visuals: (These are public domain, so do not necessarily need to be cited but below are the citations regardless...)

Napoleonic Code | France [1804]. N.d. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica. Web. 05 Jan. 2016. <http://www.britannica.com/topic/Napoleonic-Code>.

Napoleon's Lycées. N.d. Napoleonic Series, July 2009. Web. 4 Jan. 2016. <http://www.napoleon-series.org/research/napoleon/PopularHistory/Book5/c_popularbook5chapter2.html>.

François, Pierre Joseph Célestin. Allegory of the Concordat of 1801. N.d. Www.culture.gouv.fr/public/mistral/joconde_fr?ACTION=CHERCHER&FIELD_5=REPR&VALUE_5=PIE VI. 12 July 2012. Web. 4 Jan. 2016.


  1. "Concordat of 1801 | French Religious History." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 03 Jan. 2016
  2. Keithly, David M. "Bonaparte, Napoleon." Enlightenment Revolution. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Jan. 2016. <http://enlightenment-revolution.org/index.php/Bonaparte%2C_Napoleon>.
  3. "Napoleon- The Little Corporal Who Built an Empire." BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 03 Jan. 2016. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/timelines/zg9kwmn>.
  4. "The Concordat of 1801." About.com Education. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Jan. 2016. <http://europeanhistory.about.com/od/thenapoleonsandempire/a/The-Concordat-Of-1801.htm>.
  5. "INS: The Revolution, Napoleon, and Education." INS: The Revolution, Napoleon, and Education. Ed. David J. Markham. Napoleonic Series, n.d. Web. 05 Jan. 2016. <http://www.napoleon-series.org/ins/markham/c_education_m.html>.
  6. Weider, Ben, Phd, CM. "Napoleon: Man of Peace." Napoleon: Man of Peace. Napoleonic Series, May 2000. Web. 05 Jan. 2016. <http://www.napoleon-series.org/ins/weider/c_peace.html>.


  1. Bonaparte, Napoleon. "Napoleon's Account of the Internal Situation of France in 1804." Napoleon's Account of the Internal Situation of France in 1804. Trans. James H. Robinson. Hanover Historical Texts Project, Mar. 2001. Web. 05 Jan. 2016. <http://history.hanover.edu/texts/NAPOLEON.html>.
  2. Saint-Hilaire, Émile Marco. "Popular History of Napoleon: Chapter One." Popular History of Napoleon: Chapter One. Trans. Greg Gorsuch. The Napoleon Series, July 2009. Web. 05 Jan. 2016. <http://www.napoleon-series.org/research/napoleon/PopularHistory/Book5/c_popularbook5chapter2.html>
  3. Bonaparte, Napoleon. "The Civil Code Index." The Civil Code Index. Trans. Napoleonic Series. Napoleonic Series, n.d. Web. 05 Jan. 2016. <http://www.napoleon-series.org/research/government/c_code.html>.

Alex Herrera:

Kreis, Steven. History Guide. Web. 5 Jan. 2016. http://historyguide.org/intellect/lecture15a.html.

Rudé, George. "Napoleon as the Peserver of the Revolution." New Page 2. Web. 5 Jan. 2016. http://www.historyteacher.net/APEuroPassword/Reading-NapolAsPreserverOfRevol-GeorgeR_ude.htm.

The Civil Code Index." The Civil Code Index. Web. 5 Jan. 2016. http://www.napoleon-series.org/research/government/c_code.html.

Napoleon's Proclamation to the French People on Brumaire." Napoleon's Proclamation to the French People on Brumaire. Web. 5 Jan. 2016. http://www.napoleon-series.org/research/government/legislation/c_proclamation.html.

Napoleon's Proclamation to His Troops in Italy (March-April 1796)." Web. 5 Jan. 2016. http://www.historyguide.org/intellect/nap1796.html.

Seoyoon Kim:

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Holstein, Madame Stael De. "Sketch of the Life of Madame De Stael." A Treatise on the Influence of the Passions upon the Happiness of Individuals and of Nations: Illustrated by Striking References to the Principal Events and Characters That Have Distinguished the French Revolution. (1798): Vii-Xx. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

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"Untitled." (n.d.): n. pag. Http://www2.kprdsb.ca/phhs/. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.