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The Impact of Napoleon Bonaparte

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The late 1700’s was a time of great discontent in France. The people revolted against their government in an attempt to gain power in political decision making. In this time, France experienced many forms of governments as the people fought for change. It was during the 1790’s that Napoleon Bonaparte became known to the people as a strong military leader. Taking advantage of his rising popularity, Napoleon became the ruler of France and eventually the ruler of an empire. Napoleon Bonaparte had a positive impact on France and Europe due to the military, political and economic stability he restored to France, the laws he put in place, the reforms he introduced to the European countries he conquered and his improvement of the education system.

After a time of uncertainty in France brought about by the French Revolution, Napoleon restored the stability of France through the military. France had experienced a time of military failure during the 1790’s when other European nations declared war on France. Napoleon emerged in this time as a skilled soldier and tactician. He led the French army to many victories from the time he became a commander, and later a general, in the army. These victories include wars in northern Italy and Egypt against the nations who declared war on France in an attempt to prevent a spread of revolutionary ideas in their own countries. Therefore, Napoleon’s military success protected France’s people and assisted France in defending the ideals of the French Revolution and Enlightenment.

Napoleon also restored political stability by overthrowing the Directory, the French government in power from 1795 to 1799. The Directory was inefficient and ineffective because of corrupt members who lived in luxury while the people suffered. This government created inflation, increased taxes and forced the middle class to lend large sums of money to the government. Under the Directory, the people could not afford to pay for food. Riots broke out in the Paris streets as the poor protested the rising prices. Napoleon Bonaparte recognized that the people were not content with how the Directory governed and he acted to fix the problems. In 1799, Napoleon overthrew the Directory, created another constitution for France and he became the leader of the new government. Napoleon was a strong leader who had control over the government and worked to make life better for the people.

After restoring stability to France’s political structure, Napoleon turned his attention to the economy. Napoleon worked to strengthen the economic structure by reducing inflation. To achieve this, he placed controls on food prices, which eased the financial stress of the people. The economy was also strengthened when Napoleon enforced a law requiring all citizens to pay taxes and created the national Bank of France. The tax money was deposited into the bank and loans were made to businesses. Napoleon also strengthened France’s infrastructure by building and improving roads and buildings. Napoleon’s economic policies improved France’s economy, reduced inflation and improved the standard of living for the people.

Napoleon re-established old reforms and introduced new laws after he came into power. The Napoleonic Code, introduced in 1804, united many reforms of the French Revolution in one body of laws. This code had a positive effect on society because it gave all citizens equal rights under law and also gave them the right to work in any occupation. In addition, religious toleration was strengthened and the abolishment of feudalism continued in France. The Napoleonic Code is considered to be one of Napoleon’s greatest accomplishments in his governing of France. The code recognized the demands and needs of the people, yet still continued to preserve Napoleon’s control and power.

Napoleon brought the benefits of the French Revolution to all of the European countries he conquered. He eliminated feudalism and encouraged equality. Peasants benefited because they no longer were forced to pay tithes to the nobility. Religious toleration was also introduced. All people benefited from this as religious persecution ended and they were allowed to choose what they wanted to believe in. The Napoleonic Code became the basis of law for these countries, which created equality among people. Napoleon also designed constitutions, created efficient governments and supported the growth of education in these conquered nations. The people achieved a say in political decision making, just as the French had fought for. Political and social justice spread to these countries, benefiting the people in their day to day lives. Napoleon was a liberator for the people in the countries he conquered because he gave them the freedoms they longed for.

Napoleon also worked to improve France’s education system during his reign. Before the revolution, during the rule of Louis XVI, schools were run by the Church and they taught respect for elders and religion. Only the privileged members of society, from the First and Second Estates, were allowed to attend these schools. The majority of France remained uneducated. During the French upheaval, revolutionaries wanted schools to be available for everyone. Although the idea of state schools was proposed, none were ever created and the idea remained to be only a goal. Napoleon was able to make this goal a reality when he changed the education system and set up four grades of school; these were primary, secondary, lycées, and technical. The same courses were taught at each school, particularly military values, science and math. Although it was still mainly the wealthy who attended school, these government-run schools resulted in a greater number of educated citizens. Napoleon’s state schools were the first step towards a public education system and they also influenced other countries to set up similar systems of education.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s reign of France and Europe left a positive impact. Bonaparte restored stability to France by creating a strong military, taking control of the political structure and by strengthening the economy. Reforms from the French Revolution were united under one code of law. This code, the Napoleonic Code, benefited the people by creating equality among all citizens and giving them new freedoms and rights. Napoleon also spread France’s enlightened ideas to the countries he conquered and he gave their citizens political and social justice. He achieved this by making the Napoleonic Code the basis of law in these nations and by introducing revolutionary reforms to the people. In addition, Napoleon improved the French education system, thus increasing literacy and knowledge throughout the country. Napoleon Bonaparte had a huge influence on France and Europe and many of the ideas he introduced to France and Europe during his reign still effect the world to this day.


Bloy, Marje. “A Web of English History”. History Home. 10/28/08. 11/20/08 Go, J. “Napoleon”. Britannica. 2002.

Henderson, Harry. The Age of Napoleon. California: Lucent Books, 1999.

Lavelle. “How did France Change Under Napoleon?” School History. 6/19/08. 11/20/08 “Napoleon”. PBS. 2008. 11/20/08 “Napoleon I”. 2008. 11/8/08 “Napoleonic Code”. Net Industries. 2008. 11/8/08 “Napoleonic Code Approved in France”. History.com. 2008. 11/8/08

history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=tdihArticleCategory&id=4851>”Napoleonic Guide”. 2006. 11/8/08

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