During rough times in France in the late 1700's, an anarchy was being formed. A revolution turned into civil war and the people were unhappy and needed a leader. At this time, General Napoleon Bonaparte took an opportunity. Napoleon's fame for winning battles in the Middle East and Egypt and crushing royalist uprisings back at home allowed him to take over the Directory with ease. Recognized for his great military skills and outstanding leadership, Napoleon easily won over the hearts of the people.
Napoleon's first move was to obtain leadership. With the help of Pope Pius VII Napoleon was named First Consul of France. Though France was now declared an empire, it was technically a Republic because of the set Constitution. Through this Constitution, Napoleon set up a system of government that helped settle the disputes of France. Napoleon's career was arranged into a series of both accomplishments and defeats. He demonstrated his accomplishments during battle as well as in government.
By setting up the Napoleonic code, Napoleon unified the old Feudal Law and Royal Laws. Many of the laws set up, were based on his knowledge of the Enlightenment. He simplified the laws of old as well as new, and allowed freedom of speech and press. His main idea with these laws was to give all men equal rights. Women were also included into several laws. Another accomplishment was shown through religion.
Though he supported Catholicism and declared the majority of the French people were Catholics, he affirmed religious tolerance for all. Though many accomplishments were shown in government as well as religion, Napoleon's main interests were focused on building an empire. After defeating Italy and Austria, and persuading Russia to withdraw from the war, Napoleon named himself Emperor. Though Napoleon was very successful on land and in battles, he also had many unsuccessful attempts. Napoleon's rage against Britain remained unsuccessful. He attempted many tactics against the British army.
At the Battle of Trafalgar, Napoleon's loss was severe. The unexpected raid of the British admiral Lord Nelson, forced Napoleon to lose. Soon after this loss, Napoleon attempted to force Economic Blockades on Britain called the Continental System. He demanded that his conquered countries not trade with Britain, and asked Russia and Prussia to participate. The British counter to this move was to demand that any ship going to Europe, was to report in to Great Britain first. After a while, the French Navy was not able to hold off the British navy and the Continental System failed.
The French Economy soon worsened and Napoleon continued to expand his empire. Napoleon then made many more moves stirring up more trouble. He named his brothers kings in conquered countries, and removed the Holy Roman Empire, setting up the Confederation of the Rhine. This angered the Prussians, causing them to declare war. The Prussian uprisings were easily conquered by the French. As Napoleon conquered more and more countries, a feeling of Nationalism formed over them.
These people did not wish to change the traditions of old, and began resenting Napoleon. This feeling caused many revolts to occur against the French government. The Spaniards were the first to regain their lost land and recover their past traditions and royal family. Many more countries, with feeling of Nationalism or hatred toward French rule, began revolting. Prussia and Russia soon joined the movement against Napoleon. After Russia broke the Continental System resuming trade with Great Britain, Napoleon decided to invade Russia.
Napoleon gathered 600, 000 soldiers, and traveled to invade Moscow. This decision of Napoleon initiated one of his greatest of his defeats. His army should have been much more prepared for Russia's harsh weather. After reaching Moscow, and realizing the Russian army had left, Napoleon stalled for a few days and then finally withdrew. During Napoleon's retreat, the Russian army attacked. Almost all of Napoleon's army was killed, and he and 100, 000 survivors retreated.
Soon after his retreat, forces of English, Russian, Austrian, Prussian, Italian, and Spanish regained their territories. They defeated Napoleon's army at Leipzig located in Saxony, and after arriving in Paris, forced Napoleon to surrender. He was exiled to Elba, an island off the coast of Italy. Napoleon, with a determination to rule, arrived in France on March 1, 1815.
He easily regained his power and soon reigned as emperor. Fearing for any French expansion, armies of Prussia, Netherlands, and Great Britain, allied to stop this determined emperor. These armies fought in Waterloo, and Napoleon's armies were once again defeated. Napoleon was forced under arrest and died 6 years later. Though Napoleon's defeat was evident in the end, he made many lasting impacts upon the conquered countries. These conquered countries agreed with many of his changes, and most of them abolished the monarchy system.
Napoleon is mainly recognized for these accomplishments, rather than his defeats.