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The French Revolution
1789- Calling of the Estates General: the
catalyst for the Revolution.
1789-1792: Liberal Revolution
1792-1794: Radicalization
1795-1799: Thermidorean Reaction
1799-1815: Napoleon
Achievements of French Revolution
• Liberal Revolution
- Ends Feudalism; completes the rise of
the bourgeoisie
- Made the people important in politics
- The old order was never re-established
•Radical Revolution
- Nationalism: Total Mobilization of
nation; National Army; Total War
- Abolishes Slavery in Colonies
• In General
- In idea of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,
Fraternity was new - leads to nationalism
Problems of French Revolution
• It did not produce a stable government
• The Reign of Terror
• Radical. Rev - led to totalitarianism
• Radical Rev- never accomplished a
true social revolution
The Problem of the Estates System
First Estate: The Clergy
1% of pop, with 10% of land. They had wealth, land, privileges, and they levied a tax
on the peasantry, the tithe, which generally went into the pockets of a bishop or
monastery rather than the local parish priest. The First Estate was perhaps 100,000
strong. But note that there were many poor clergymen in this Estate, and they were
going to support the Revolution.
Second Estate: The Nobility
2-5% of pop, with 20% of the land. 400,000 people. They also had great wealth and
taxed the peasantry: There was a "feudal" resurgence in 18th century.
The great division among the Nobility was between the Noblesse d‘Epee, dating from
the Middle Ages, and the Noblesse de Robe: later nobles whose titles came from their
possession of public offices.
Third Estate: Everyone Else
95-97% of the pop. There were a few rich members, the artisans and then all the
peasantry. These were also class divisions. In the modern world we only consider the
Third Estate. Its Victory has been total.
Subdivisions of the Third Estate
The Bourgeoisie
8% of the pop, with 20% of Land. They often bought land and exploited the peasants on
it. The Bourgeoisie had been growing throughout the century, to some extent encouraged
by the monarchy. By 1788 this class had become very important, and its members were
well read, educated and rich (fivefold increase in trade 1713 -1789). Yet this important
group had no say in running the country.
The Peasants
90% of the pop. with 40% of the land.. Peasants alone paid the taille and the tithe. They
alone had to give labor service to the State. Peasants also had to give feudal services to
their Landlords: They paid dues to their feudal (seigniorial) lord when they sold land that
was in all other ways their own. Poverty was intense, but varied by region. Peasants
farmed the land and regarded it as their own, but it was not legally theirs. What they
wanted was to own their own property.
The Urban Poor of Paris
Artisans - factory workers, journeymen. Artisans had different interests than the
bourgeoisie, but they played an important role at several points in the Revolution. They
were the most politicized group of poor people, possibly due to high literacy.
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette
Economic Weakness
Cost of the Wars of Mid-Century
The Seven Years War 1756-63 cost a lot!
The American Revolution: France had more or less paid for the American war
against the British.
The cost of Versailles and the extravagant spending of the royal household was
NOT a big factor by the end of century - it used about 5% of revenue.
Bankruptcy of the State.
By 1780s the government was nearly bankrupt. Half of government income was
going to pay interest on debts (annual deficit 126 Million Livres.) (The overall
national debt was almost 4 Billion Livres). This debt was not greater than in Great
Britain or Holland. The problem was that the government could not pay the interest
on the debt.
Economic Weakness
Taxation Problems
The Nobles and Clergy, the richest people in the country, were not taxed. Taxes
were levied on the poorest part of population.
- the taille on peasant produce
- the Gabelle - on salt
- various trade tariffs
The basic problem was that in the richest country in Europe there was not enough
income for the government to do its job. To deal with the fiscal crisis, taxes on the
poor were increased. It has been calculated that there was a 28% increase in some
parts of country in Louis XVI's reign alone.
Dependence on Loans
The banking system was not able to cope with the fiscal problems. The fact that
the King had to raise taxes on the upper classes led to the calling of the Estates
1789: King Calls the Estates General
The Estates General May 1789 - July 1789
• The King, although still in charge, is forced to call a meeting of the national legislature,
the Estates General, for the first time in over 150 years.
Estates General meets May 5, 1789 at Versailles
• Third Estate had twice as many Representatives as the other two (a compromise made
in December): largely lawyers and government officials
• Third Estate still disputes over voting procedure: should all estates meet together or
• The Third Estate kept being slighted; in response, it refused to sit alone.
• The other Estates invited to join with it on June 1st.
June Events
1. The Third Estate Declares itself a National Assembly on June 17th. Tennis Court Oath
June 20th 1789
2. The king opposed this move, but a majority of the clergy and some nobles joined the
National Assembly.
3. On June 27th the King capitulated.
4.National Assembly takes name NATIONAL CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
The 3rd Estate Awakens
The Tennis Court Oath, June 20, 1789
July 14, 1789. The Fall of the Bastille.
The Parisian working class makes sure that its voice too is heard.
July 1789 The Great Fear
• Violence spreads
throughout the country as
peasants and workers seek
to demolish the remnants
of feudalism.
• In this engraving, a
crowd parades the severed
head of an official.
August 4, 1789. National Constituent Assembly Abolishes Feudalism.
August 4th Laws
- All French, regardless of class, are now equal
under the law.
- Abolishment of the "feudal regime" : most
feudal privileges outlawed: tax exemptions,
tithes, obligatory labor on roads, and the
payment of seigneurial dues.
- Peasants were supposed to pay
compensation, but this requirement was
abolished under the Radical Revolution in
August 26, 1789: Declaration of the Rights of Man
and of the Citizen.
August 26, 1789. The National Assembly adopts
The Declaration of the Rights of Man
Printed in 1000s of leaflets and distributed around France.
- equality before the law
- natural rights – life, liberty, property, security and resistance to
- sovereignty resides in the Nation, not in the monarch
- law is an expression of the General Will
- freedom of religion (Jews as well, for 1st time in European History)
- freedom of speech
- constitutional monarchy with separation of powers
- Enlightenment ideas + American declarations of rights
October Days 1789: The Women’s March Upon Versailles
Workers and peasants march on Versailles demanding the return of
the King to Paris. Government functions under threat of mob rule.
"Triumph of the Parisian Army and the People"
1789-91 Challenges Faced by Liberal Government
The National Constituent Assembly faced massive problems. It could not repudiate
the state debt (since many of its members were men of property and were owed
money). It also had to find a way to rule France now that the power of the
monarch was in shreds.
A. Administrative Reform:
Provinces replaced by 83 Departments Same sort of courts and laws applied
throughout France.
B. Economic Liberalism:
Gets rid of tariffs - unlimited economic freedom
Suppresses guilds and forbids workers associations.
C. The State Debt
The solution was to nationalize Church lands: (Civil Constitution of the Clergy
July 1790) The problem was that many people remained loyal to Church, and
this action made the Revolution unpopular in many quarters.
Printed bonds - assignats based on value of Church land - became currency.
Constitution of 1791
A Constitutional Monarchy.
One Chamber House
Only men paying tax could vote.
Only 50,000 would qualify to be elected (less than the number of
the nobility).
War is promoted to solve domestic problems.
The Legislative Assembly took over October 1, 1991.
It was to prove ineffective and eventually led to a radicalization of
the Revolution.
Departments of France
June 22, 1791 "Arrest of the King at Varennes”
Attempting to flee France, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and their
children are arrested at Varennes and brought back to Paris.
August 27, 1791 Declaration of Pillnitz
Austria and Prussia declared war on France, declaring that they
would re-establish an absolute monarchy. By the end of the year,
England as well had declared war against the revolutionary
War Period - Begins April 1792
There was pressure from democratic exiles from other countries.
Radicals thought a successful War would bring them support.
Louis XVI supported the war - he hoped a loss would restore his
position - as did many monarchist members of the Legislative
[Robespierre opposed the war as he saw danger of defeat]
The French armies were soon retreating - this caused
radicalization at Home.
The Radical Revolution
Political Factions in the Legislative Assembly
- Monarchists - including Lafayette
- The Jacobins - an elitist political club which wanted a republic and
the end of the monarchy (Their name comes from their meeting place in
a Dominican priory (Jacobin)
- One group of Jacobins - known as Girondists assumed leadership - (at
first led by Jacque-Pierre Brissot (1754-93)
– Declaration of War on Austria (April 20 1792) was believed by many
to be a move which would bring the radical revolutionaries to power.
The Radical Revolution
The War, the Monarchy and the Press
The Prussian Army pushed into France as far as Verdun -in July the Duke
of Brunswick issued a threat to Paris if the King was hurt.
The Girondists themselves blamed the monarchy and Marie Antoinette
for secret intrigues, and this put the monarchical constitution under strain.
There was absolute freedom of the press - and the press waged a campaign
of denunciation vs. the government: Jean-Paul Marat and his Ami du Peuple
were prominent here.
Process of Radicalization
- This popular agitation was transformed into something powerful by two
-The arrival of volunteer National Guardsmen from all over France in
July (8th) [volunteers from Marseilles come singing the Marseillaise]
-The political organization of Paris into a Commune and 48 Sections - all
centers of insurrection.
August 10, 1792. The Fall of the Monarchy
The attack on the Tuileries Palace, which housed the royal family.
Image of the Attack of 20 June 1792
Foundation of the Republic, 10 August 1792
A new National Convention meets to draw up a new constitution which ends the
monarchy and establishes a republic.
September 2-7, 1792. The September Massacres
Summary executions of clergymen held in prison.
1792-95 Rule of the Convention
The Convention was elected by universal male suffrage - but only 7 1/2% of
electorate voted. (It was not the best atmosphere for a free election.)
The Convention first met September 21, 1792 and declared France a Republic.
The Girondists were still major voice, but they gradually lost control over the next
few months to another group of Jacobins known as The Mountain (because they
sat high in Convention Hall). They were prepared to work with the Sans-Cullottes.
(the Parisian Workers). Maximillien Robespierre was one of its leaders.
Political groups here were
- the Girondists [or Brissotins] (name from region deputies were supposed to have
come from)
- the Mountain, (name from their seats high in the Assembly Hall)
- the Marais - the plain.(name from their seats low in the Assembly Hall)
Nine months of political struggle in the Convention ensued.
The Rise of the Montagnards and Sans-Culottes
The Sans-Culottes
Paris artisans, shopkeepers, wage earners and factory workers.
Name comes from the fact they wore long trousers not the knee
breeches (culottes) favored by the middle and professional classes.
They wanted immediate relief from hunger, resented all social
inequality, and were suspicious of representative government.
They also opposed the unregulated economy so beloved of all the
liberal revolutionaries, including the Jacobins.
They compelled the Legislative Assembly to agree to call a new
assembly to write new democratic constitution - this body was to
be called the Convention.
August 1792- April 1793: Fighting the War
• Aug 1792 - LaFayette defects to Austria
• 20th September 1792 - Battle of Valmy: General Dumouriez beats the Prussians and
effectively gives the Revolution breathing space. Victory at Valmy began the French
Revolutionary Wars: the attempt by France to spread the Revolution across Europe.
Where successful, it provided loot for the government.
• Autumn 1792 - Austrian Netherlands (Belgium) is attacked. By November, Brussels
is in French hands
• November 1792 - The Convention offers to help all revolutionary groups in Europe.
• December 1792 - The Convention abolishes feudalism in occupied territories:
beginning the restructuring of Europe.
• January 1793 - Danton proclaims the doctrine of Natural Frontiers - ie the Rhine, a la
Louis XIV.
• February 1 1793 - Declarations of War vs. England, Netherlands and Spain. France
was at War with all of Europe
• April 1793 - Dumouriez defects to Austria - aware he could not restore monarchy
in France.
Trial and Condemnation of Louis XVI
• Condemnation and Execution of the King:
The necessary consequence of August 10th and the King's
treachery over the war.
Members of The Montaignard had found Louis XVI's
correspondence to Austria.
The condemnation of the King also put Girondists in a bind: if
they supported it, they lost moderate support; if they opposed it,
they lost patriotic support. Robespierre saw this.
Vote to Condemn 28 absent, 321 other Penalties, 13 Death with a respite
vs. 361 Death: a majority of one.
No one thought Louis was innocent.
King executed 21 Jan 1793.
January 2, 1793. Last Meeting of Louis XVI with
His Family at the Temple Prison
January 21, 1793. Execution of Louis XVI.
The Terror Commences
Counter-Revolutionary Activity
By March 1793 there were counter-revolts
going on in conservative Catholic areas,
especially in the Vendee Province.
There was a great concern in the
Convention, still under Girondist control,
about counter-revolution:
- It strengthened laws against émigrés.
- Revolutionary Tribunals were set up.
- A decree was passed condemning to
death all rebels taken in the act.
- March 21 1793 - Watch Committees
were set throughout the country.
The moderates had in fact set up the
structure of the Terror by Spring 1793.
April 6, 1793. Committee of Public Safety created
by the Convention
April 6, 1793. Committee of Public Safety created
by the Convention
The Committee of Public Safety to use emergency powers to
fight foreign threats and civil war.
Set up to supervise, for Convention, the executive. It was
given its own funds:
-100,000 livres to pay agents
-100,000 livre for secret purposes
At first middle men were elected - Danton (17591794)
The Days of 31 May and 1–2 June 1793:
Girondists Are Overthrown.
Parisians demonstrated outside the Convention and through intimidation forced
the politicians inside to give up the Girondists who were being vilified.
May 31, 1793 The Mountain Takes Over
The population of Paris was still not happy: there was inflation due to
war and the government’s issuing of paper currency. The unrest was
made use of by the Montaignards whose main difference with the
Girondists was that they would work with the mob.
May/June 2 1793 New insurrection: the mob demands the expulsion of
the Girondist members.
The Montaignards seize control in the Convention. They passed a new
Democratic Constitution - June 22 – but left it in cold storage until the
war was over.
June 1793 They appointed a new Committee of Public Safety.
June 22, 1793 80,000 Armed sans-culottes surround the National
Convention and demanded the arrest of the Girondist faction.
This body was to rule France for the next year.
July 13, 1793. Charlotte Corday assassinates Marat.
The Death of Marat, (1793) Jacques Louis David
July 1793-July 1794: The Rule of the Committee
for Public Safety
Problems: The Jacobin faction, now in control, still had to contend
with The Counter Revolution and the War with Europe
It dealt with the war through effective reorganization of the military,
and it dealt with the internal revolt through the imposition of terror.
But there was more - this was a dedicated group – the Committee
aimed to restructure society in the most revolutionary manner.
They sought to portray The War and the Terror as a national mission
against evil inside and outside France.
Total War
The Committee of Public Safety dealt with the military threat with the first
use in modern times of total war: the whole country was put on a war
footing (in contrast to the small mercenary armies of the ancien regime).
23 August 1793: The levee en masse conscripted ALL males into the army.
There was a planned economy to supply the war as well as to aid the poor
and keep their support.
September 17: Maximum price rules established.
Assignats stopped falling in value in year of CPS control.
By Spring 1794, the Committee on Public Safety had created an Army of
800,000, the largest ever assembled, until then, by a European power.
This was a citizen army, fighting for ideals, going up against armies that
were often made up of serfs.
August 23, 1793. Decree of levée en masse
“The Marseillaise”
The Reign of Terror or the Republic of Virtue
Revolts against the revolutionary government broke out around France, especially
in the Vendee, Brittany and Normandy
July 13 1793: The assassination of Marat alarms revolutionary leaders
Fall 1793 to July 1794: The Height of the Terror
Guillotined: Marie-Antoinette and the Royal Family, then aristocrats, then
Girondists, then during 1794 the wave of terror moved to the provinces and
included peasants and sans-culottes; finally in Spring 1794 even republicans like
Danton were executed.
The Committee for Public Safety also guillotined social revolutionaries from more
radical groups from among the sans-culottes: socialists known as the Hebertists.
June 10: The Law of 22 Prairal: conviction without evidence was now allowed.
Large increase in numbers killed in last month of The Terror.
The Terror was fiercest in those areas of rebellion and in Paris
Approximately 25,000-40,000 people were killed; 300,000 were arrested.
It was intentional, not unplanned.
September 1793: "Siege and Taking of the City of Lyon"
6–7 December 1793: "Drowning in the Loire by
Order of the Fierce Carrier"
Summoning to Execution
The Republic of Virtue
Adoption of a New Calendar:
The Convention created a new calender, dating Year One from Sept 22,
1792: when the Monarchy had been abolished.
A system of new months was adopted on November 10th 1793: Messidor,
Thermidor, Fructidor, Vendemiaire, Brumaire, Frimaire, Nivose, Pluviose,
Ventose, Germinal, Floreal, Prairal
The decimal system week: every 10th day as rest day (not good for workers):
Aim was to blot out the cycle of Sundays and Saint's days
Adoption of a New Religion
- Revolution had been anti-clerical from the start.
- Compare to the Enlightenment and to the Civil Constitution of Clergy.
- In November 1793, The Convention outlawed the worship of God (where
is religious tolerance?)
- The Cathedral of Notre Dame was renamed the Temple to Reason:
ceremonies were conducted by the Commune of Paris.
- November 10: Cult of Reason begun: Alienated Christians made direct
efforts to close Churches throughout France.
Cult of the Supreme Being
- De-Christianization was opposed by Robespierre; toleration of Catholics
was ordered by the Committee for Public Safety under his orders.
- Even so, Robespierre thought Catholicism was not an effective religion.
- On May 7, 1794, he proclaimed the Cult of the Supreme Being : Deism +
cultic festivals celebrating republican virtues - humanity, liberty, etc.
- On June 8th Robespierre led a massive public Festival of Supreme Being.
- He emphasized the attempt to restructure the whole civilization.
June 8, 1794: Festival of the Supreme Being
The Thermidorean Reaction (1795-1799)
- The Reign of Terror Was not popular in the long run. It was genuinely
terrifying. It got out of hand, and malicious accusations were made.
(episode of the rafts at Nantes and 2000 killed.)
- Politicians feared for their own heads when Robespierre made a
threatening speech on July 26th. Also note that Robespierre's
fascination with the new religion did not endear him to many in the
- Finally, Robespierre himself was condemned to the Guillotine in the
Convention on the 9th day of Thermidor (July 27, 1794) and executed
on July 28, 1794.
July 28, 1794 Execution of Robespierre
1795-1799: The Directory
The Directory was a five man executive body whose aim was to avoid both
dictatorship and excessive democracy.
This was a four-year period without strong government fractured by a series of
coup d'etats. The leaders were not strongly ideological, but they did not want to
turn the clock back.
The new people in control were again the rich bourgeois liberals whose chief aim
was to perpetuate their own rule.
- Girondist deputies were allowed to re-take their seats in the legislature.
- The Paris Commune outlawed.
- The Law of 22 Prairal revoked.
- People involved in the Terror were now attacked.
- Economic liberalism revived + inflation
- There was also a revival of Catholicism although the cult of reason and the new
calendar were kept.
1795 August 22 - Constitution of the Year III
The first formally constituted Republic.
- Property and wealth, not birth, were now important.
- France now had great national consciousness; never again could "L"etat,
c'est moi" ever be said
- Peasants now were a major landowning group in society.
- The Sans-cullottes were removed from political life.
- Riots by the poor were now put down - October 1795
- Napoleon commanded the cannon.
Political Pressures on the Directory
- There was continuing pressure from the left, from the old Jacobins, and there were
food riots among the peasants.
- There were strong movements to have the Monarchy restored: The Monarchists
actually won a majority in the election of 1797 - The Directory staged a coup
against them, supported by Napoleon - Coup of 18 Fructidor/Sept 4, 1797
- The problem for Monarchists was the lack of an heir. Louis XVII, the young son
of Louis XVI, had died. The new Bourbon heir to the throne was an unrepentant
conservative who wanted to restore the 1789 Constitution, and that was not
acceptable to the Peasants (who had gained land), or even the moderate Middle
- Restoration of the monarchy was also not acceptable to Napoleon who had his
own ambitions.
- To keep control, the Directory increasingly depended on the Army, and that choice
opened the way to power for Napoleon.
Military Successes under the Directory
• Under the Directory, the military expansion begun under the convention
continued with help of the Committee of Public Safety’s war economy.
Great new generals had been brought to the fore, including eight of
Napoleon’s future marshals, as the old officer class went into exile.
• March 1795 - Peace was concluded with Prussia and Spain, but war
continued with Great Britain and Austria. So the Directory was dependent on
the military for stability at home and success abroad.
• Napoleon’s Success:
- First Triumph in the defense of Toulon in 1793
- He appealed to many, disgusted with the Directory, who looked for
authority from above. One of these people was Abbé Sieyes (who had
written What is the Third Estate in 1789). He concocted a plan for a coup to
bring Napoleon to power. Sieyes believed in "Confidence from below, but
power from above."
1795-1797 Napoleon’s Rise to Power
• Born in 1769 to a Noble Corsican
•He was trained as artillery officer in
armies of the Ancien Regime and
commissioned in 1785.
• He was in favor of the Revolution.
• 1793 He distinguishes himself in
engagement against the British at Toulon
• 1795 He puts down Royalist riots
against the Directory
• 1796 His armies conquer Northern
Italy (and establish their independence
from the government).
Napoleon’s Character
- He saw himself as a man of
- He was a pragmatist and an
opportunist: a real man of his time.
- He had a Romantic Streak: he
compared himself to Alexander the
Great and Caesar.
- He was devoted to his family; he
would make them important all
over Europe.
Coup of 18 Fructidor/Sept 4, 1797: The Consulate
Napoleon at St. Bernard (1800), David
Coup of 18 Brumaire - Napoleon Named First
Consul 1799
• The Coup did not go well. When Napoleon addressed the General Assembly,
he was shouted down and got apoplectic with anger.
• He was saved by his brother Lucien who called in the army and shooed away
the deputies.
• Napoleon's account of this later detail was distorted: he failed to mention
that Lucien saved his life.
• Napoleon became one of three consuls and presented himself as the savior of
the Republic.
• The New Constitution of the Year VIII appealed to Republican theory and
included a council of state (Checks and Balances).
• But it actually made Napoleon the ruler. It was approved by plebiscite
(3,011,077 to 1,567)
• This event may be regarded as the end of the French Revolution.
Napoleon's Rule in France: The Consulate (1799-1804)
Napoleon maintained order in the state by combining Liberal and Conservative
Policies - He worked out important compromises between competing groups.
a. He employed people from all political groups. (e.g. Talleyrand).
b. The gains of the peasants were confirmed.
c. He granted an amnesty to nobles.
d. He decreed improved education.
e. He signed the Concordat of 1801 with Pope Pius VII
which gave Catholics freedom of worship It acknowledged.
Catholicism as the religion of most Frenchmen, but he reserved to the
State the power to name bishops and pay priests. The Church gave up its
claims on property, and the Clergy swore loyalty to the state.
Conservative Order
a. Central government took control of the Provinces.
b. He stopped the free press and free speech in1800
c. He ruthlessly crushed any opposition using a secret police force loyal
only to him. (He had the Bourbon Duke of Enghien murdered in 1804.)
d. He stopped free elections, especially after he declared himself
CIVIL CODE 1804: The Napoleonic Code
-Before the Code, France did not have a single set of laws; laws depended on local
customs, and often on exemptions, privileges and special charters granted by the
kings or other feudal lords.
-During the Revolution the vestiges of feudalism were abolished, and the many
different legal systems used in different parts of France were to be replaced by a
single legal code.
The Code granted all French people legal equality:
- It safeguarded property rights.
- It abolished all aristocratic privileges of birth.
- It directed that state officials be chosen by merit.
- It gave men control over their wives.
- Labor unions were forbidden.
- It set the tone of all later French life: legally egalitarian, socially
bourgeois, and administratively bureaucratic.
Military Conquests and Nemesis
Italy 1797 - Napoleon defeats Austrian and Sardinian Armies.
It was success here that made him popular at home. Despite the government by
Directory - already at this stage he was making his own treaties, e.g. with the Pope
and with Austria.
Egypt - Expansion to India envisaged - England seen as main foe. French here laid
basis of Egyptology with a mapping of Egypt. But the expedition was not successful
- Napoleon left for France in 1799 for the coup - and the army was not successful the British controlled the sea.
Military Methods
Napoleon was a military genius, but as he said after 60 battles that he didn't know
anything that he had not known before. His great skill was in the execution of warfare.
He built his successful military campaigns on:
- Improvements in military theory made during the Ancien Regime in
response to France's defeats in the Seven Years War: an emphasis on
flexible formations in battle rather than fixed ones.
- His forces were divided into moderate sized units -each unit lived off the
land and traveled light-speed: maneuver were used to bring hostile armies
into battle - it was vital to time the uniting of the various bits of his army just
at the right time.
- His great citizen army that was motivated to fight well, put together under
the Committee of Public. Safety, and kept going by the Directory.
- 700,000 strong army
Liberty Leading the People (1830), Delacroix
Conquest of Europe: War against Third Coalition
(Austria, Russia, Sweden and Great Britain)
1801 - Austria defeated at Battle of Marengo,
Defeat at Sea
1803 - William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806) decides Napoleon must be stopped; he
puts together the Third Coalition .
1803- Bonaparte faced a major setback when an army he sent to reconquer Haiti and
establish a base was destroyed by a combination of yellow fever and fierce resistance
led by Toussaint L'Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines.
1805 - Naval dominance lost to Britain at the Battle of Trafalgar (21 October 1805)
(Lord Horatio Nelson killed.) Britain now had the dominance of the seas it was to
keep for the next century.
Dominance on land
1805 Battle of Austerlitz (Dec 2) (just after Trafalgar) -Napoleon gains Italy
1806 Battle of Jena-Auerstedt , defeats Prussia (supposedly the best army in Europe).
1807 Treaty of Tilsit - Signed by Napoleon, by Alexander I of Russia (secretly) – who
becomes part of continental system. -French Territorial gains confirmed - and Russia
reduced in size.
The Grand Empire
French controlled all of Continental Europe (achievement shows unrealized
possibilities of France under the later Ancien Regime).
1806 The Holy Roman Empire dissolved. Germany re-organized July 1806 as
The Confederation of the Rhine.
A French Empire set up including land up to the Rhine and beyond.
New Kingdoms set up - Spain, Italy, Holland, Sweden - All with Napoleons
family or followers on the throne. One relative became a Cardinal.
All the other state were, for the time being, allies.
The Napoleonic Code was imposed everywhere: the end of Feudalism + Local
town oligarchies
Coronation of Napoleon as Emperor (1804)
Napoleon’s Empire
Continental System
- An Attempt to destroy Great Britain’s Trade dominance - Instituted in
1806 in the Berlin Decrees.
- Napoleon claimed he was liberating Europe from the English (a “Nation
of Shopkeepers”)
- But Great Britain’s trade with America and The East meant it could
survive. The system actually hurt European countries.
[USA tries to take advantage in 1812 and take Canada - fails]
Problems Begin
- Spanish Revolt 1808 - over deposition of its Bourbon dynasty (still ruling in 1988)
and opposition to the Church - the Peninsular War was to sap Napoleon's strength.
- British Blockade
- Napoleon's Invasion of Russia
1810 Russians withdrew from the Continental system.and resumed contact with Great
1812 Napoleon invades Russia with a 500,000 man army. He took Moscow, but was
finally defeated by the cold and snow and lack of supplies. Part of his method had
been for the army to live off the land, but here there was nothing to live off. The
Russians used a scorched earth policy. He was also defeated by the resistance put up
by the entire Russian people - from the Tsar to the serfs. -also Tsar did not allow for
any one decisive battle which was Napoleon's forte (The Battle of Borodino in 1812
was not decisive.) (Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture)
The Retreat from Moscow - 1812/1813: Napoleon was unable to get together another
army for six months. About 100,000 out of 600,000 survived. -still able to raise
350,000 in six months.
Spanish Campaign 1808
Napoleon’s Campaigns
Retreat from Moscow (1812)
The Hundred Days
Napoleon escaped from Elba 1815
-Battle of Waterloo 1815
-Defeated by the Prussians and English
-Duke of Wellington leads English/Field Marshal von Blucher the Prussians
-Hardened the Peace Settlement for France
N. St. Helena
- Napoleon sent to exile in St. Helena
-note how he was treated by British. -died 1821
The Opposition Becomes Effective - 1813
-The Fourth Coalition, (Russia, Prussia, Austria, GB)
- Prussia after defeat at Jena reorganized and modernized - some land
reform. end of serfdom, calls to patriotism. 42,000 men trained each year by 1813 it was strong again - army of 270,000.
- The war is seen as a German War of Liberation.
France defeated at the Battle of the Nations 1813 - at Leipzig in Germany
- Allies take Paris in March 1814
- Napoleon Abdicated 1814 - Exiled to Elba
Napoleon’s Effect on his Contemporaries and on History
Personal Impact
A hero to half of Europe a traitor to the rest. (Old Boney)
Reaction of Beethoven - changes name of his 3rd Symphony to the Eroica
-in Paris his campaigns are celebrated e.g. Gare d'Austerlitz, Avenue Wagram +
His body is at Les Invalides
Many people yearned for a leader - Why ?
Spread of French Revolutionary Ideals
-French Soldiers were committed - liberal and French Rev. ideals were adopted
by many.
-Napoleon got rid of Feudalism in the countries he conquered.(But did not give
the land to the peasants)
-Abolished Established Churches + Monasteries.
-The Code carried many of these ideas on after Nap.
Napoleon’s Effect on his Contemporaries and on History
There was also a reaction to French Dominance as it became clear that Napoleon's
policies benefited France. There were also objections to his family becoming Kings
and Queens all over Europe.
-Even so, the growth of Nationalism in other countries was based on French
Revolutionary ideals (idea of Fraternity in French Rev).
-This was especially the case in Germany where weakness was blamed on political
A Changed Political Map of Europe
-Holy Roman Empire Goes - Austria now its own thing 300 German States reduced
to 39. [More Catholic states than Protestant ones disappeared - no Habsburg would
again be elected emperor]
-Britain's mastery of the seas now total - there is for first time no other maritime
power for her to compete with (no Spain, Netherlands, or France)