Napoleon Bonaparte

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Napoleon Bonaparte

Emperor of the French
In office
Preceded by office established
Succeeded by Louis XVIII (as King)

Born August 15, 1769
Ajaccio, Corsica
Died May 5, 1821
Saint Helena
Resting place Burial: December 15, 1840
Les Invalides, France

Napoleon (Napoleon Bonaparte or, after 1804, Napoleon I, Emperor of the French) (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a world historic figure and authoritarian ruler of France as First Consul from 1799 to 1804, and Emperor of the French, 1804 to 1814. He revolutionized the military applications of artillery, and routinely moved his troops faster and with fewer supplies than was then thought possible, allowing for amazingly large and rapid concentrations of force against his slower and less adaptable enemies. His most used tactic wat to lead a surge into the center of his enemy, dividing them and then bring his remaining forces into a flanking formation and give the opposing army no option but to surrender or retreat.

As a civil leader he played a major role in the French Revolution, then ended democracy and became First Consul in 1799 and Emperor of France in 1804. He modernized the French military, fiscal, political legal and religious systems. The Napoleonic Civil Code is considered the first successful codification that strongly influenced the law of many other countries.

Napoleon was constantly at war against Britain with a complex, ever-changing coalition of European nations on both sides. Refusing to compromise after his immense defeat in Russia in 1812, he was overwhelmed by a coalition of enemies, forced to abdicate in 1814 and sent into exile at Elba (an island near Rome). In 1815, after escaping from Elba, he took control of France again, raised a new army, and almost succeeded in defeating the isolated Prussian and British forces but was defeated at the Battle of Waterloo. He was exiled to St. Helena—a remote island in the South Atlantic, where he died.

Napoleon's image and memory are central to French national identity, but he is despised by the British and Russians and is a controversial figure in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

He was nicknamed The Little Corporal due to his small height of 5 ft 7" however he was actually average height for a French person at the time, the average being 5'5-5'6.

Early history

He was born Napoleone di Buonaparte in the town of Ajaccio, one year after the island of Corsica was transferred to France by the Republic of Genoa. He was the second son of Carlo Buonaparte, a lawyer of the minor nobility; his mother was Marie-Letizia Bonaparte. The Buonopartes, proud members of the lower aristocracy, were destitute. Carlo Buonaparte had fought for Corsican independence under Pasquale Paoli; he now switched and became a supporter of the French regime, which recognized his noble rank. When the King offered free education to impoverished noble families, Napoleon and several siblings were educated at royal expense. In 1779, after a few months' schooling at Autun to improve his French—he always had a thick Corsican accent—Napoleon entered the military academy at Brienne, which was run by a Catholic religious order. He remained there for five years. Taunted by his schoolmates as being provincial from the wildest, newest and most violent part of France, and uncouth, he professed an intense Corsican patriotism and hatred of the French "oppressors." In 1784 he was selected to attend the top-ranked Ecole Militaire in Paris to study the science and mathematics of artillery. Napoleon spent the year in luxury such as he had never known before, and graduated 42nd in a class of 130. Commissioned as second lieutenant of artillery, he was sent to Valence in southern France.

There was revolution in the air; Napoleon was an intellectual and an ardent disciple of Voltaire, Rousseau and the philosophes; he saluted the people but hated mob violence.[1] During his 10 years as a junior officer made five extended trips to Corsica, seeking a politico-military career, alongside Paoli or against him. He took prolonged leaves, adding up to three years in seven, sometimes failing to report back on time. In June 1793 Napoleon in Corsica was defeated by the Paolists; he and his family fled to France, joined the French revolutionary cause and forgot Corsica.[2]

Rise to Power

Italy and Corsica in 1799

Once the Revolution had begun, so many of the aristocratic officers turned against the Revolutionary government, or were exiled or executed, that a vacuum of senior leadership resulted. Promotions came very quickly now, and loyalty to the Revolution was as important as technical skill; Napoleon had both. His demerits were overlooked as he was twice reinstated, promoted, and allowed to collect his back pay. Paris knew him as an intellectual soldier deeply involved in politics. His first test of military genius came at Toulon in 1793, where the British had seized this key port. Napoleon, an acting Lieutenant-Colonel, used his artillery to force the British to abandon the city. He was immediately promoted by the Jacobin radicals under Robespierre to brigadier-general, joining the ranks of several brilliant young generals. He played a major role in defending Paris itself from counter-revolutionaries, and became the operational planner for the Army of Italy and planned two successful attacks in April 1794. He married Josephine (Rose de Beauharnais) in 1796, after falling violently in love with the older aristocratic widow.[3]


In Italy, Napoleon's rapid maneuvers proved brilliantly successful and had major long-term effects. He defeated Austria, France's most dangerous enemy. He established French hegemony in the Italian peninsula, put Vienna in an impossible strategic situation, and solidified his reputation as a military genius beloved by the men in the ranks; he became a major national hero, and thus a political force in his own right.


The governing Directory was happy to send Napoleon to far-off Egypt. In July 1798, Napoleon led the Armée d’Orient an expeditionary force of 36,000 men to conquer Egypt from the Ottoman Empire, the opening move in his plan to acquire a new colony for France, block England's access to India, and export the values of French republicanism to a modernized Middle East. Aware that Europe was ignorant of cultural and religious Islam, Napoleon brought along a hundred scholars and linguists. The scholars opened the field of Oriental studies; the third-ranking French general converted to Islam as Abdallah Menou.

He easily defeated the 60,000-man army of the Mamelukes (horsemen) at the Battle of the Pyramids (July 21, 1798).

Intending to transplant French liberty to Egypt, Napoleon encountered stiff resistance and reacted with the same barbarism and repression used by the Ottomans.[4] The British under Admiral Horatio Nelson sank Napoleon's entire fleet at the Battle of the Nile (August 1, 1798), trapping the French army as the Turkish main army approached. Napoleon attacked first, invading Syria and defeating the Turks in a bloody massacre. As he laid siege to Acre, plague broke out among his troops, forcing Napoleon to retreat back to Egypt. At the Battle of Aboukir (July 25, 1799), his 6000 men defeated a Turkish force three times as strong. Napoleon then slipped through the blockade and returned to France.[5] Although he won great victories in Egypt, disease and the heat decimated his ranks. He left most of his forces in Egypt under the command of Jean-Baptiste Kleber, who continued to fight in Egypt for another two years.

Coup d'état of the 18th Brumaire

Despite the failures in Egypt, Napoleon returned to a hero's welcome. In alliance with the director Emmanuel Sieyès and his brother, Lucien Bonaparte, president of the council of five hundred, he forced the Council of 500 into electing a consular government as the executive branch. Napoleon became "first consul" for ten years, with two consuls appointed by him who had consultative voices only. His power was confirmed by the new constitution ("Constitution of the year VIII"), originally devised by Sieyès to give Napoleon a minor role, but rewritten by Napoleon, and accepted by direct popular vote (3,000,000 in favor, 1,567 opposed). The constitution preserved the appearance of a republic but in reality established a military dictatorship. The days of Brumaire sounded the end of the short-lived republic: there was no longer an elected representative government.[6]


The long string of wars was broken by the Treaty of Amiens (1802), which proved to be only a 14-month pause.[7] Napoleon used the interlude to make major territorial gains in Italy and Germany without firing a shot, an unexpected development that forced the British back to the battlefield.


Napoleon's major adventure into the Caribbean—sending 30,000 troops in 1802 to retake Saint Domingue (Haiti) from ex-slaves under Toussaint L'Ouverture who had revolted. Napoleon wanted to preserve France's financial benefits from the colony's sugar and coffee crops; he then planned to establish a major base at New Orleans. He therefore reestablished slavery in Haiti and Guadeloupe, where it had been abolished after rebellions. Slaves and black freedmen fought the French for their freedom and independence. Revolutionary ideals played a central role in the fighting for it was the slaves and their comrades who were fighting for the revolutionary ideals of freedom and equality, while the French troops under General Charles Leclerc fought to restore the order of the ancien régime. The goal of reestablishing slavery - which explicitly contradicted the ideals of the French Revolution - demoralized the French troops. The demoralized French soldiers were unable to cope with the tropical diseases, and most died of yellow fever. Slavery was reimposed in Guadeloupe but not in Haiti, which became an independent black republic.[8] Napoleon's vast colonial dreams for Egypt, India, the Caribbean, Louisiana, and even Australia were all doomed for lack of a fleet capable of matching Britain's Royal Navy. Realizing the fiasco Napoleon liquidated the Haiti project, brought home the survivors and sold off Louisiana to the U.S.[9]

Military action to 1812

Napoleon Crossing The Alps by Jacques Louis David--Napoleon actually rode a sure-footed mule over the Alps

Napoleon's basic military strategy was to identify and defeat the enemy's main force. The goal was to break the enemy's will to resist so that favorable negotiations followed; the conquest of territory was won in negotiations. "I see only one thing," Napoleon explained in 1797, "namely the enemy's main body. I try to crush it, confident that secondary matters will then settle themselves."[10]

Less flamboyant was his close attention to selecting his generals, and his calculations of the logistical needs of a campaign. He also pioneered the use of the division as a combined arms formation, although he did not standardize their organization. Napoleon also made much more routine use of maps and accurate watches, for synchronizing operations, than had previous military commanders.

His spectacular failure in Russia in 1812 was due primarily to his bad logistical planning, a blunder historians have been unable to explain. In battle he paid close attention to the overall picture, but left the critical decisions to his marshals. He rarely issued detailed guidance on corps level tactical employment; instead he devised the overall battle plans, and directed the combined attacks of infantry, cavalry reserves, and massed batteries of guns. Since he was simultaneously head of the government, he integrated the military, political and diplomatic dimensions. He was an accurate judge of his opponents, except that is for Britain and Russia. He could never be at peace with Britain; with Russia he let his need for diplomatic prestige overcome his military judgment.

Austerlitz, 1805

The Battle of Austerlitz on December 2, 1805 is celebrated as Napoleon's greatest victory. The collapse of the Peace of Amiens led Britain to assemble the "Third Coalition" in April 1805, including Austria, Russia, and Sweden. After threatening to invade Britain, Napoleon sent 200,000 soldiers marching east. He used six army corps, each a self-contained, all-arms combat force. The corps was a Napoleonic invention, and each was strong enough to operate independently, allowing the army to advance along a broad front, which facilitated logistics (each army seized supplies in its region), and increased the speed of the advance. Napoleon commanded in person in Germany; relying on the support of most of the south German states, he advanced to meet the Austrians who had invaded Bavaria. On the upper Danube he concentrated his 200,000 men, reinforced by Bernadotte, and by allied from Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden, Hesse, Nassau. After the Austrians had been defeated in several engagements, their main army was surrounded at Ulm and surrendered 30,000 men on October 17, 1805 without a fight.

At the same time, "the French had captured most of Europe and intended to seize England, the final piece of the puzzle." [1] (For a dramatic treatment of a great English-French naval encounter, see "Master and Commander".)

The British navy won a total victory under Horatio Nelson sinking the combined French and Spanish fleet at Trafalgar on October 21, 1805, permanently destroying Napoleon's sea power. On December 2, 1805, at the Battle of Austerlitz, called "the battle of the three emperors," Napoleon split the enemy center, encircled the enemy left, and won a smashing victory over the united forces of Austria and Russia. Napoleon lost 9000 men, the enemy 26,000. Austria made peace; the Russians retreated.

The Peace of Pressburg deprived Austria of territory and forced her to pay an indemnity. Napoleon then turned his attention to Prussia, who was going to attack France but didn't mobilize in time for the fighting. Napoleon declared war after the conclusion of the Peace of Pressburg and destroyed the Prussian army at the battle of Jena-Aurstadt. Napoleon, remembering that Russia hadn't sued for peace after Austerlitz decided to pursue the retreating Russian army through Poland. He enjoyed early success, pushing the Russians back and capturing Warsaw but was weakened at a bloody stalemate at Eylau. Napoleon, determined on a "spring recovery" pushed the Russians further into Poland, delivering a crippling blow at the Battle of Friedland. The Treaty of Tilsit between Prussia, Russia and France did little to the Russians, instead depriving Prussia of huge amounts of land while Russia only had to give up part of Poland. Aside from that, Prussia had to pay an indemnity and had its army restricted to a certain size while Russia only had outlaw British goods from its ports. Napoleon and the Tsar became close friends after the Treaty.


The increased importance of artillery after 1807 stemmed from Napoleon's creation of a highly mobile artillery force, the growth in artillery numbers, and changes in artillery practices. As a result of these factors, Napoleon, rather than relying on infantry to wear away the enemy's defenses, now could use massed artillery as a spearhead to pound a break in the enemy's line that was then exploited by supporting infantry and cavalry.[11]

Russia to 1812

The Polish issue

His son Alexander Walewski.

In 1807 Napoleon created a powerful outpost of his empire in Eastern Europe. Poland had recently been divided up by its neighbors, but Napoleon created the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, which depended on France from the very beginning. The duchy consisted of lands seized in Russia, Austria, and Prussia; its Grand Duke was Napoleon's ally the king of Saxony, but Napoleon appointed the intendants who ran the country. The 2.5 million Poles thrilled to the opportunity and by 1814 sent about 200,000 men to Napoleon's armies, including about 90,000 who marched with him to Moscow. The Russians strongly opposed any move toward an independent Poland and to punish them Napoleon invaded in 1812.[12] Napoleon's impact on Poland was dramatic, including the Napoleonic legal code, the abolition of serfdom, and the introduction of modern middle class bureaucracies.


Collapse, 1813-1814

The fiasco in Russia in 1812 wounded Napoleon's political prestige, emptied his treasury and encouraged his enemies to greater exertions and nations on the fence to turn against France. Diplomatic historians blame Napoleon's inflexibility and unwillingness to compromise when he was winning (before Russia), and, especially, when the odds had turned against him in 1813-14; in January 1813, Napoleon rejected Prussian terms; that summer he mishandled Austria; in early 1814 he fumbled the final offer of peace made at Chatillon in March 1814. That political failure doomed him. The Allies then signed a 20-year alliance (the Treaty of Chaumont), stuck together, and switched Bavaria away from Napoleon.[13]

Military setbacks in Spain further weakened his cause and exposed France to an attack through Spain. While Napoleon could recruit replacement troops, the loss of experienced cavalry in 1812 meant that he could not exploit his victories at Luetzen and Bautzen in 1813.[14] His army of raw and ill-equipped recruits was outnumbered and France was war-weary; on the other hand, the Allies were also exhausted, and had longer lines of communications and supply. Man for man, except for Wellington's British, the French probably remained better soldiers than their opponents to the very end.[15]

Napoleon mishandled the campaigns in north Germany in 1813. Instead of concentrating his forces for a decisive battle with the enemy's main force, Napoleon repeatedly detached large numbers of troops under ineffective commanders to capture the Prussian capital of Berlin. The heavy losses and strategic reverses sustained by the French in these questionable undertakings left Napoleon's Grande Armée vulnerable to the massive Allied coalition that met him at Leipzig. He won at Dresden but Napoleon's mistakes were uncharacteristic of him at a younger age; he now underestimated the strength of his enemies and overestimated his own, and he was driven less by calculation than by thirst for revenge against Prussia, a onetime ally who switched against him.[16]

Napoleon's decisive defeat came at the Battle of Leipzig, called "the battle of nations" in October 1813. Napoleon's 180,000 French and Saxon and Württemberg troops were overwhelmed by 320,000 Allies, comprising Austrian, Russian, and Prussian armies. It was the biggest battle to date in European history, with 100,000 to 120,000 killed, wounded or captured on both sides.[17] Napoleon managed to escape to France with a portion of his army, but the disaster was almost as great as that in Russia in 1812 and even more irreparable; all the German states now joined the Allies, the Dutch expelled the French, and Denmark was forced to accept terms. In early January, 1814, 200,000 Allied troops invaded France. Napoleon scored some small victories but the Allies took Paris on March 31, his government declared him deposed, and his marshals deserted him. Napoleon abdicated and was sent into exile at Elba (an island off the Tuscan coast, north of Rome), as the old monarchy was brought back to France. The French army, now controlled by Louis XVIII numbered 460,000 men, but most were still loyal to Napoleon.

100 Days to Waterloo, 1815

In March 1815, Napoleon secretly landed in France and rallied his supporters. They flocked to his cause as the French royal officials lost control; Napoleon entered Paris in triumph and raised new armies.


The Allies, meeting at a peace conference in Vienna, sent a million soldiers to stop him. The largest contingents was a multinational force under the command of the Briton, the Duke of Wellington. Napoleon defeated the German army under Blücher at Ligny but had to turn and stop Wellington before he merged forces with Blücher. At a very hard and closely fought battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815, Blücher arrived at the last moment and Napoleon was finally and totally defeated. He surrendered to the British who sent him in exile to the remote island of St. Helena in the south Atlantic, where he died a prisoner in 1821. His relatives lost their royal positions; his imperial army, and particularly the legendary Imperial Guard, were disbanded, and Europe entered an era of peace.

Impact on France

Napoleon centralized power in Paris, with all the provinces governed by all-powerful prefects whom he selected. They were more powerful than royal intendants of the ancient régime and had a long-term impact in unifying the nation, minimizing regional differences, and shifting all decisions to Paris.[18]

Law: Code Napoléon

Of permanent importance was the Code Napoléon (1806), created by eminent jurists under Napoleon's supervision. Praised for its Gallic clarity, it spread rapidly throughout Europe and the world in general. The Code recognized the principles of civil liberty, equality before the law, and the secular character of the state. It discarded the old right of primogeniture (where only the eldest son inherited) and ruled that inheritances should be divided equally among all the children. The court system was standardized, with all judges appointed by Paris.[19]


Religion had been a major issue during the French Revolution, and Napoleon resolved most of the outstanding problems. Thereby he moved the clergy and large numbers of devout Catholics from hostility to the government to support for him. The Catholic system was reestablished by the Concordat of 1801 (signed with Pope Pius VII), so that church life returned to normal; the church lands were not restored, but the Jesuits were allowed back in and the bitter fights between the government and Church ended. Protestants and atheists were tolerated.[20]


The French taxation system had collapsed in the 1780s. In the 1790s the government seized and sold church lands and lands of exiled aristocrats. Napoleon instituted a modern, efficient tax system that guaranteed a steady flow of revenues and made long-term financing possible.


Napoleon kept the system of conscription that had been created in the 1790s, so that every young man served in the army, which could be rapidly expanded even as it was based on a core of careerist sergeants and talented officers. Before the Revolution the aristocracy formed the officer corps. Now promotion was by merit and achievement—every private carried a marshal's baton, it was said.[21]

Impact on Europe

Statue of Napoleon at l'Hotel des Invalides' Honor Courtyard, Paris.

Broers (1996) distinguishes the "inner" and "outer" empire. The "Inner" Empire included France itself and Belgium, the Netherlands, the Rhinelands, most of western Germany, Switzerland, and northern Italy. These areas were integrated into an efficiently administered and largely obedient bloc. Napoleon sought to rally hostile political factions of both right and left to his rule (ralliement), as well as to fuse them into a loyal administrative class. In return for their services and obedience, Napoleon offered this new elite social order a coherent legal code and protection of their property.

The "outer" empire, comprised the German Hanseatic territories, former Papal States, Illyrian provinces, and the kingdom of Spain (ruled by his brother Joseph Bonaparte). It displayed little enthusiasm for French occupation and resented the imposition of high taxes, enforcement of the Continental blockade against trade with England and America, application of the Concordat with the Pope to protect the Catholic Church, and especially, conscription demands to supply troops for the Grande Armee, such as the 300,000 lost in Russia in 1812. In the Outer Empire banditry flourished, elites refused to cooperate with the occupier, and the forces of counterrevolution remained active. Napoleonic rule rested on an insecure alliance of local collaborators and French administrators, both of whom were unpopular with their subjects. Grab (1996) shows heart of the French occupation of Europe was a combination of reform and exploitation designed to extract men and money more efficiently from the subject states.[22]

Napoleon lifted all restriction on Jews in France and its empire. In Germany and Italy, especially, this marked a dramatic liberation from the ghetto.[23]

After overcoming the forces of the coalition in 1807, Napoleon decided to create a powerful outpost of his empire in Eastern Europe. He established the Grand Duchy of Warsaw, which depended on France from the very beginning. The duchy consisted of lands seized in Russia, Austria, and Prussia. He gave some support to the Polish struggle with Russia, which wanted to keep Poland within its sphere of power. The addition of west Galicia to the duchy of Warsaw by the peace of Vienna, had caused Czar Alexander anxiety lest the restoration of Poland should be contemplated, and this was a factor that led to Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812.


Paul Delaroche, Bonaparte franchissant les Alpes.

All historians agree that Napoleon's remarkable personality was one key to his influence. Although not physically imposing, in one-on-one situations he immediately had a hypnotic impact on people and seemingly bent the strongest leaders to his will. Second his intellectual powers were unrivaled. He had a photographic memory for facts, people, events, numbers, military units and maps. He devoured statistical information and reports, memorized maps, and had a perfect recall of a fantastic stock of information. He had a thorough command of military technology, as well as the financial and diplomatic secrets of France. He could instantly organize and integrate all that information, generating brilliant insights on complex situations. He could organize his own thoughts and rapidly dictate a series of complex commands to all his subordinates, keeping in mind where each major unit was expected to be at every future point, and like a chess master, "seeing" the best plays many moves ahead. Combined with his inexhaustible energy, he kept relays of staff and secretaries at work. Unlike many generals Napoleon did not turn to history to ask what Hannibal or Alexander or whoever did in a similar situation. After 1812 Napoleon seems to have lost his old verve. On the great Russian campaign of 1812, with crisis after crisis at hand, he rarely rose to the occasion. After that debacle compatriots noticed a loss of the old flair. Some historians have suggested a physical deterioration, but others note that an impaired Napoleon was still a brilliant general.[24]

In terms of impact on events, it was more than Napoleon's personality that took effect. He chose outstanding generals, and stood by them. He reorganized France itself to supply the men and money needed for great wars. Above all he inspired his men—Wellington said his presence on the battlefield was worth 40,000 soldiers,[25] for he inspired confidence from privates to field marshals. The force of his personality neutralized material difficulties as his soldiers fought with the confidence that with Napoleon in charge they would surely win.[26]

Napoleon's ambition and drive inspired the term "Napoleonic Complex", which is used to describe a person who overcompensates for shortness or other physical deficiencies by excessive aggressiveness or will to dominate other people.

He married first Josephine Beauharnais (9 March 1796) and later Marie-Louise of Austria (11 March 1810). His only son, Napoleon II (1811 - 1832) the King of Rome, died at the age of 21.

Quote on Jesus

"Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him."[27]

Propaganda and memory

The Coronation of Napoleon in Notre Dame by J. L. David

Napoleon's extensive and masterful use of propaganda contributed to his rise to power, legitimated his regime, and established his image for posterity. Strict censorship, controlling every aspect of the press, books, theater, and art, was only part of his propaganda scheme, aimed at portraying him as bringing desperately wanted peace and stability to France. The propagandistic rhetoric changed in relation to events and the atmosphere of Napoleon's reign, focusing first on his role as a general in the army and identification as a soldier, and moving to his role as emperor and a civil leader. Specifically targeting his civilian audience, Napoleon fostered an important, though uneasy, relationship with the contemporary art community, taking an active role in commissioning and controlling all forms of art production to suit his propaganda goals.[28]

The tomb of Napoleon at Les Invalides, in Paris.

The memory of Napoleon in Poland is highly favorable, for his support for independence and opposition to Russia, his legal code, the abolition of serfdom, and the introduction of modern middle class bureaucracies.[29]

Hazareesingh (2004) explores how Napoleon's image and memory is best understood as playing a key role in collective political defiance of the Bourbon restoration monarchy in 1815-30. People from all walks of life and all areas of France, particularly Napoleonic veterans, drew on the Napoleonic legacy and its connections with the ideals of the 1789 revolution. They spread rumors of Napoleon's return from St. Helena; many talked openly of Napoleon as the great inspiration for French patriotism and for individual and collective liberties. A pro-Napoleon political mobilization appeared in open displays of the tricolor and rosettes, as well as celebrations of anniversaries of Napoleon's triumphs. Royal celebrations were disrupted by raucous laughter and buffoonery as the many supporters of Napoleon worked, without any central coordination, to destabilize the Bourbon regime.[30]

Datta (2005) shows that following the collapse of militaristic Boulangism in the late 1880s, the Napoleonic legend was divorced from party politics and revived in popular culture. Concentrating on plays and novels from the period 1893-1913, Datta examines how writers and critics of the "Belle Epoque" exploited the Napoleonic legend for diverse political and cultural ends. Reduced to a minor character, the new fictional Napoleon was not a world historical figure but an intimate one fashioned by each individual's needs and consumed as popular entertainment. In their attempts to represent the emperor as a figure of national unity, proponents and detractors of the Third Republic used the legend as a vehicle for exploring anxieties about gender and fears about the processes of democratization that accompanied this new era of mass politics and culture.[31]

After being defeated by the British in 1815, the French Emperor was exiled to St. Helena--an island in the South Atlantic Ocean. Six years later, at the age of 52, Bonaparte whispered his last words, "Head of Army!" [32]


See also

Basic further reading

See the detailed Bibliography

  • Emsley, Clive. Napoleon 2003 142 pp, very succinct coverage of life, France and empire; little on warfare
  • Englund, Steven. Napoleon: A Political Life. (2004). 575 pages; the best political biography excerpt and text search
  • Fisher, Herbert. Napoleon (1913) 256pp old classic online edition
  • Harold, J. Christopher. The Age of Napoleon (1963) 480pp, popular history stressing empire and diplomacy
  • Grab, Alexander. Napoleon and the Transformation of Europe. (2003), pp. 249, maps; excellent synthesis excerpt and text search
  • Greiss, Thomas E. West Point Atlas for the Wars of Napoleon (1986) 70pp; all maps are online
  • Johnson, Paul. Napoleon (Penguin Lives) (2002) 208pp excerpt and text search
  • Markham, Felix. Napoleon (1963). 304pp online edition
  • McLynn, Frank. Napoleon: A Biography (2003) 752pp, stress on military excerpt and text search
  • Paret, Peter. "Napoleon and the Revolution of War," in Paret, ed. Makers of Modern Strategy (1986), Napoleon's ideas on warfare
  • Rose, John Holland. The Life of Napoleon I: Including New Materials from the British Official Records, (2 vol 1903), old but solid scholarship; online editon vol 1 online editon vol 2
  • Thompson, J. M. Napoleon Bonaparte: His Rise and Fall (1954), scholarly, well-balanced in topics, but pro-Britain

Detailed bibliography

Major biographies

  • Asprey, Robert. The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte and The Reign of Napoleon Bonaparte. (2002); 2 vol, 1200pp well-written popular biography focusing on the military excerpt and text search
  • Barnett, Corelli. Bonaparte (1978), hostile
  • Dwyer, Philip. Napoleon: The Path to Power (2008), to 1799
  • Emsley, Clive. Napoleon 2003 142 pp, very succinct coverage of life, France and empire; little on warfare
  • Cronin, Vincent. Napoleon (1971), favorable popular bio
  • Dwyer, Philip. Napoleon: The Path to Power (2008), 672 pp; vol 1 of major new biography, to 1799 excerpt and text search
  • Ellis, Geoffry. Napoleon (1997)
  • Englund, Steven. Napoleon: A Political Life. (2004). 575 pages; the best (and most advanced) political biography; thin on military excerpt and text search
  • Fisher, Herbert. Napoleon (1913) 256pp old classic online edition
  • Fournier, August. Napoleon the First: A Biography (1903); 836 pages; excellent old biography online edition
  • Herold, J. Christopher. The Age of Napoleon (1963) 480pp, popular history stressing empire and diplomacy
  • Johnson, Paul. Napoleon: A Penguin Life. (2002). 208 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Lefebvre, Georges: Napoleon, 1969, influential French perspective
  • Markham, Felix. Napoleon 1963. 304pp online edition
  • McLynn, Frank. Napoleon: A Biography (2003) 752pp, stress on military excerpt and text search
  • Rose, John Holland. The Life of Napoleon I: Including New Materials from the British Official Records, (2 vol 1903), old but solid scholarship; online editon vol 1 online editon vol 2
  • Schom, Alan. Napoleon Bonaparte: A Life (1997), 944pp; very hostile; argues Napoleon was a paranoiac psychopath excerpt and text search
  • Thompson, J. M. Napoleon Bonaparte: His Rise and Fall (1954), scholarly, well-balanced in topics, but pro-Britain
  • Tulard, Jean. Napoleon: The Myth of the Saviour (1985), influential French biography
  • Woloch, Isser. Napoleon and His Collaborators: the making of a dictatorship (2001) excerpt and text search

General reference

  • Chandler, David. Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars (1993)
  • Esposito, Vincent J. and John R. Elting, A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars (1999); textbook; includes the West Point maps
  • Fremont-Barnes, Gregory. ed. The Encyclopedia of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars: A Political, Social, and Military History (ABC-CLIO: 3 vol 2006)
  • Furet, François and Mona Ozouf, eds. A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution (1989), 1120pp; long essays by scholars; conservative perspective; stress on history of ideas
  • Greiss, Thomas E. West Point Atlas for the Wars of Napoleon (1986) 70pp; all maps are online
  • Nafziger, George F. Historical Dictionary of the Napoleonic Era. 2002. 353 pp.
  • Nicholls, David. Napoleon: A Biographical Companion. 1999. 300 pp.
  • Pope, Stephen. Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars. (2000). 572 pp.
  • Smith, Digby. The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book (1998); 582pp; data on 2000+ individual battles, clashes, sieges, raids, capitulations, and naval engagements

Military studies

  • Adkin, Mark. The Waterloo Companion: The Complete Guide to History's Most Famous Land Battle (2002) 448pp excerpt and text search
  • Arnold, James R. Napoleon Conquers Austria: The 1809 Campaign for Vienna. (1995). 247 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Bell, David A. The First Total War: Napoleon's Europe and the Birth of Warfare as We Know It (2008) excerpt and text search
  • Chandler, David. The Campaigns of Napoleon: the Mind and Method of History's Greatest Soldier (1973), 1216 pp; experts call it the best military synthesis
  • Cole, Juan. Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East (2007) excerpts and online search from
  • Connelly, Owen. Blundering to Glory: Napoleon's Military Campaigns (2nd ed 2006) negative on Napoleon's skills
  • Coote, Stephen. Napoleon and the Hundred Days. (2005). 320 pp.
  • Dodge, Theodore Ayrault. Napoleon; A History of the Art of War (1904), old classic online edition
  • Duffy, Christopher. Austerlitz, 1805 (1999)
  • Duffy, Christopher. Borodino and the War of 1812 (1999).
  • Elting, John R. Swords Around a Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armee (1997), influential study
  • Epstein, Robert M. Napoleon's Last Victory and the Emergence of Modern War (1994) on Austrian war of 1809
  • Esdaile, Charles J. Napoleon's Wars: An International History, 1803-1815 (2008), 656pp excerpt and text search
  • Esdaile, Charles J. The French Wars 1792-1815. (2001). 96pp online edition
  • Fisher, Todd. The Napoleonic Wars (2001-4) 3 vol; 96pp, short, well-illustrated operational history excerpt and text search vol 1; excerpt and text search vol 2; excerpt and text search vol 3
  • Forrest, Alan. Napoleon's Men: The Soldiers of the Revolution and Empire. 2002. 248 pp.
  • Fortescue, J. W. A history of the British army (19v 1899-1930) full text vol 4 pt2: 1789-1801online edition vol 6: 1807-1809; full text vol 7: 1809-1810; full text vol 8: 1810-1812; full text vol 9: 1813-1814; full text vol 10: 1814-1815
  • Gates, David. The Napoleonic Wars, 1803-1815 (1997) 304pp; attacks Connolly and says N's "brilliance as a military commander has rarely been equalled let alone surpassed"
  • Gill, John. With Eagles to Glory: Napoleon and his German Allies in the 1809 Campaign (1992)
  • Goetz, Robert. 1805: Austerlitz; Napoleon and the Destruction of the Third Coalition (2005). 368pp
  • Griffith, Paddy. The Art of War of Revolutionary France 1789-1802, (1998); 304 pp; excerpt and text search
  • Hamilton-Williams, David. Waterloo: New Perspectives; The Great Battle Reappraised. (1994). 416 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Herold, J. Christopher. Napoleon in Egypt (1962) online edition
  • Kagan, Frederick W. "Russia's Wars with Napoleon: 1805–1815," in The Military History of Tsarist Russia, ed. Frederick W. Kagan and Robin Higham (2002), 106–22.
  • Kagan, Frederick W. The End of the Old Order: Napoleon And Europe, 1801-1805 (2006) first of four promised volumes; covers the strengths and strategies of all the powers excerpt and text search
  • Leggiere, Michael V. Napoleon and Berlin: The Franco-Prussian War in North Germany, 1813. 2002. 384 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Liaropoulos, Andrew N. "Revolutions in Warfare: Theoretical Paradigms and Historical Evidence - the Napoleonic and First World War Revolutions in Military Affairs." Journal of Military History 2006 70(2): 363-384. Issn: 0899-3718 Fulltext: in Project Muse
  • Lieven, Dominic. "Russia and the Defeat of Napoleon (1812–14)" Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 7#2 (2006) 283-308 online in Project Muse
  • Luvaas, Jay. Napoleon on the Art of War (2001) 288 pp. A synthesis, arrangement, and translation of Napoleon's thinking. excerpt and text search
  • Lynn, John A. The Bayonets of the Republic: Motivation and Tactics in the Army of Revolutionary France, 1791–94 (1984); influential analysis excerpt and text search
  • Muir, Rory. Tactics and the Experience of Battle in the Age of Napoleon (2000), 466pp excerpt and text search
  • Nofi, Albert A. The Waterloo Campaign, June 1815. 1993. 333pp online edition
  • Nosworthy, Brent. With Musket, Cannon and Sword: Battle Tactics of Napoleon and His Enemies. (1996). 528 pp.
  • Paret, Peter. "Napoleon and the Revolution of War," in Paret, ed. Makers of Modern Strategy (1986)
  • Pericoli, Ugo.1815: The Armies at Waterloo (1973)
  • Riley, J. P. "How Good Was Napoleon?" History Today, (July 2007) 57#7 10pp in EBSCO
  • Riley, J. P. Napoleon and the World War of 1813: Lessons in Coalition Warfighting. (2000). 480 pp
  • Riley, Jonathon. Napoleon As a General: Command from the Battlefield to Grand Strategy (2007)
  • Rogers, H.C.B. Napoleon's Army (1974)
  • Rothenberg, Gunther. The Napoleonic Wars (2006) 240pp, well illustrated synthesis by leading scholar excerpt and text search
  • Rothenberg, Gunther. The Art of Warfare in the Age of Napoleon 1978
  • Schneid, Frederick C. Napoleon's Italian Campaigns: 1805-1815. (2002); 229pp online edition
  • Tarle, Eugene. Napoleon's Invasion of Russia, 1812. 1942. online edition

Impact on France

  • Bergeron, Louis. France under Napoleon (1981), French viewpoint
  • Forrest, Alan. "Propaganda and the Legitimation of Power in Napoleonic France." French History, 2004 18(4): 426-445. Issn: 0269-1191 Fulltext: in OUP journals
  • Furet, François. The French Revolution, 1770-1814 (1996), pp 211–65 on Napoleon
  • Furet, François and Mona Ozouf, eds. A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution (1989), 1120pp; long essays by scholars; conservative perspective
  • Goubert, Pierre. The Course of French History. 1991; French textbook; ch. 14 online edition
  • Lyons, Martyn. Napoleon and the Legacy of the Revolution (1994)
  • Paxton, John. Companion to the French Revolution (1987), hundreds of short entries.
  • Scott, Samuel F. and Barry Rothaus. Historical Dictionary of the French Revolution, 1789-1799 (1984), short essays by scholars
  • Sutherland, D.M.G. The French Revolution and Empire: The Quest for a Civic Order (2nd ed 2003), comprehensive survey
  • Sutherland, D.M.G. France 1789–1815. Revolution and Counter-Revolution (2nd ed. 2003) 430pp excerpts and online search from

Diplomacy and impact on Europe

  • Blanning, T.C.W. The French Revolutionary Wars 1787-1802 (1996).
  • Broers, Michael. Europe under Napoleon 1799-1815 (1996) 291pp, covers everything except the battles
  • Bruun, Geoffrey. Europe and the French Imperium, 1799-1814 1938. excellent survey of all of Europe
  • Dwyer, Philip G. ed.Napoleon and Europe, (2001), essays by scholars on each major power
  • Ellis, Geoffrey. The Napoleonic Empire (1991)
  • Grab, Alexander. Napoleon and the Transformation of Europe. (2003), pp. 249, maps; excellent synthesis excerpt and text search
  • Hill, Peter P. Napoleon's Troublesome Americans: Franco-American Relations, 1804-1815 (2005)
  • Lyons, Martyn. Napoleon and the Legacy of the Revolution (1994)
  • Muir, Rory. Britain and the Defeat of Napoleon, 1807-1815. (1996). 466 pp.
  • Parker, Harold T. "Why Did Napoleon Invade Russia? A Study in Motivation and the Interrelations of Personality and Social Structure," Journal of Military History 54 (April 1990): 131–46. in JSTOR
  • Rothenberg, Gunther E. "The Origins, Causes, and Extension of the Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon," Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 18, No. 4, (Spring, 1988), pp. 771–793 in JSTOR
  • Rude, George F. and Harvey J. Kaye.Revolutionary Europe, 1783-1815' (2000), scholarly survey
  • Schroeder, Paul W. "Napoleon's Foreign Policy: A Criminal Enterprise," Journal of Military History 54 (April 1990): 147–62. Highly negative
  • Schroeder, Paul. The Transformation of European Politics, 1763-1848. 1996; Elaborate detail; advanced history; very hostile to Napoleon; online edition
  • Woolf, Stuart. Napoleon's Integration of Europe (1991) 320pp online edition
  • Cambridge Modern History (1907) vol 9: Napoleon online edition, older articles by scholars, 900pp

Historiography and memory

  • Black, Jeremy. "Why the French Failed: New Work on the Military History of French Imperialism 1792-1815." European History Quarterly 2000 30(1): 105-115. Issn: 0265-6914 Fulltext: in Sage journals
  • Datta, Venita. "'L'appel Au Soldat': Visions of the Napoleonic Legend in Popular Culture of the Belle Epoque." French Historical Studies 2005 28(1): 1-30. Issn: 0016-1071
  • Dunne, John. "Napoleon: For or against ... and Beyond." History Review. Issue: 27. 1997. pp 17+. online edition
  • Dwyer, Philip G. "Napoleon Bonaparte as Hero and Saviour: Image, Rhetoric and Behaviour in the Construction of a Legend," French History 2004 18(4): 379-403,
  • Forrest, Robert F. "Rumor into Myth: the Image of Napoleon among the Romanians, 1800-1848," Consortium on Revolutionary Europe 1750-1850: Proceedings 1992 21: 98-105
  • Geyl, Pieter. Napoleon: For and Against (1949) online edition, debates among scholars
  • Hazareesingh, Sudhir. The Legend of Napoleon (2005) excerpt and text search
  • Hazareesingh, Sudhir. "Memory and Political Imagination: the Legend of Napoleon Revisited." French History, 2004 18(4): 463-483. Issn: 0269-1191 Fulltext: in Oxford up
  • Hazareesingh, Sudhir. "Bonapartist Memory and Republican Nation-building: Revisiting the Civic Festivities of the Second Empire," Modern & Contemporary France 2003 11(3): 349-364
  • Heit, Siegfried. "German Romanticism: an Ideological Response to Napoleon," Consortium on Revolutionary Europe 1750-1850: Proceedings 1980 1: 187-197. Argues that German opposition to Napoleon led German Romanticism to reject the chief ideals represented by the French Revolution and Napoleon. Uses the works of Arndt, Johann Fichte, Jahn, Kleist, and Schleiermacher, to show how German Romanticism became identified with political reaction and nationalism, and how it opposed political liberalism, rationalism, neoclassicism, and cosmopolitanism.
  • Horward, Donald D. "Napoleon and Beethoven," Consortium on Revolutionary Europe 1750-1850: Proceedings 1980 2: 3-13,
  • Markham, J. David. "Napoleon and the Romantic Poets," Consortium on Revolutionary Europe 1750-1850: Selected Papers 1998: 651-663,
  • Newman, Edgar Leon. "Defanging the Revolution: How the Memory of the French Revolution Was Changed in French Working-class Poetry and Song, 1830-52," Consortium on Revolutionary Europe 1750-1850: Selected Papers 1995: 591-605,
  • Nieuwazny, Andrzej. "Napoleon and Polish identity." History Today, May 1998 v48 n5 pp. 50–55
  • O'Brien, David. After the Revolution: Antoine-Jean Gros, Painting and Propaganda under Napoleon (2006) 288p.

Prendergast, Christopher (1997). Napoleon and History Painting: Antoine-Jean Gros's La Bataille d'Eylau. Oxford: Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-817422-5. 

  • Pinkney, David. ed., Napoleon: Historical Enigma (1969)
  • Schönpflug, Daniel. "So Far, and Yet So Near: Comparison, Transfer and Memory in Recent German Books on the Age of the French Revolution and Napoleon," French History 2004 18(4): 446-462
  • Stock, Paul. "Imposing on Napoleon: the Romantic Appropriation of Bonaparte," Journal of European Studies 2006 36(4): 363-388, deals with English Romantic writers
  • Wilson-Smith, Timothy. Napoleon and His Artists (1996)

Primary sources

  • Dwyer, Philip G. and Peter Mcphee, eds. The French Revolution and Napoleon: A Sourcebook. (2002) 213pp online edition

Online resources

See other


  1. Englund pp 29-33
  2. Englund ch. 1-3
  3. Englund pp. 63-73, 91-2, 97-8
  4. Juan Cole, Napoleon's Egypt (2007); Irene A. Bierman, ed., Napoleon in Egypt (2003)
  5. The British defeated the French army in Egypt in 1801 and allowed it to return to France.
  6. Furet (1996) p 212
  7. Historians often use the Treaty of Amiens to separate what they call the "French Revolutionary wars" from the "Napoleonic wars." The new wars were much more nationalistic and less ideological. John D. Grainger, The Amiens Truce: Britain and Bonaparte, 1801-1803. (2004)
  8. Philippe R. Girard, "Liberte, Egalite, Esclavage: French Revolutionary Ideals and the Failure of the Leclerc Expedition to Saint-Domingue." French Colonial History 2005 6: 55-77. Issn: 1539-3402 Fulltext: in Project Muse
  9. Englund p 259. Slavery remained in Guadeloupe until 1848.
  10. Maximilian Yorck von Wartenburg, Napoleon as a General (1902) p. 39
  11. Bruce McConachy, "The Roots of Artillery Doctrine: Napoleonic Artillery Tactics Reconsidered." Journal of Military History 2001 65(3): 617-640. Issn: 0899-3718 in Jstor. McConachy rejects the alternative theory that growing reliance on artillery by the French army beginning in 1807 was an outgrowth of the declining quality of the French infantry and, later, France's inferiority in cavalry numbers.
  12. Riley (2000) p. 27-8. The Grand Duchy was dissolved in 1815 and Poland would not be a state until 1918.
  13. Thompson ch 13-14
  14. Chandler, Campaigns of Napoleon ch 77
  15. Schroeder (1996) p. 495-6
  16. Michael V. Leggiere, "From Berlin to Leipzig: Napoleon's Gamble in North Germany, 1813." Journal of Military History 2003 67(1): 39-84. Issn: 0899-3718 Fulltext: in Project Muse
  17. Chandler, Campaigns of Napoleon ch 80
  18. Goubert (1991) ch 14
  19. Goubert (1991) ch 14
  20. Sutherland (2003) ch 11
  21. Goubert (1991) ch 14
  22. Broers (1996)
  23. Frederic Cople Jaher, The Jews and the Nation: Revolution, Emancipation, State Formation, and the Liberal Paradigm in America and France (2002) pp 103-37.
  24. See Chandler, "General Introduction" to The Campaigns of Napoleon (1975).
  25. Thompson, Napoleon Bonaparte (1951) p 285
  26. Englund, Napoleon (2004) pp 379ff
  28. Forrest (2004)
  29. Andrzej Nieuwazny, "Napoleon and Polish identity." History Today, May 1998 v48 n5 pp. 50-55
  30. See Hazareesingh (2004)
  31. Venita Datta, "'L'appel Au Soldat': Visions of the Napoleonic Legend in Popular Culture of the Belle Epoque." French Historical Studies 2005 28(1): 1-30. Issn: 0016-1071 Fulltext: in Ebsco
  32. Mystery of Napoleon's Death Said Solved