Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769 in Ajaccio on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Through his military exploits and his ruthless efficiency, Napoleon rose from obscurity to become Napoleon I, Emperor of France. He is both a historical figure and a legend — and it is sometimes difficult to separate the two. The events of his life fired the imaginations of great writers, filmmakers, and playwrights whose works have done much to create the Napoleonic legend. Napoleon was one of the greatest military commanders in history.
He has also been portrayed as a power-hungry conqueror. Was he a megalomaniac, and was this an advantage or disadvantage to his rule over France? Napoleon denied being such a conqueror. He argued that, instead, he had attempted to build a federation of free peoples in a Europe united under a liberal government. But if this was his goal, he intended to achieve it by concentrating power in his own hands.
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However, in the states he created, Napoleon granted constitutions, introduced law codes, abolished feudalism, created efficient governments and fostered education, science, literature and the arts. He was a megalomaniac and because of his desire for complete control, he was defeated and exiled; therefore making it a disadvantage over his rule of France.
One reason for napoleon’s megalomania was his childhood. He was put into the finest military schools and was taught military tactics and warfare#. Without this napoleon would have probably never learned the skills he did at the school, and would have never become the power-hungry leader he eventually became. Napoleon’s childhood was different from an average child’s life. He was a very small, fiery, hot-tempered boy#. He loved to argue and fight with his brother and even elders#. He beat his brother when fighting, even though Giuseppe was more than a year older than him#. He had a very large superego and was very conscientious. Although with all these aggressive aspects, he was very generous#.
He went to military and preparatory schools. He started school at the age of five and was very serious about school#. He loved arithmetic, this love of mathematics caused him to become an artillery officer in the French army#. He developed his fiery nature as a child. He was very extroverted from the other boys in the school. This temper and anger ultimately caused him to become a soldier.
He enrolled in one of the two schools for French nobility#. This is when he went to preparatory school. He was very rambunctious and loved history and mathematics. He liked this school because he was treated much more like a soldier and began to learn more about tactics#. He was able to help to organize the defense of a town during a mock battle. This is where he gained his military tactics#.
He began to form his own ideas about warfare. An example of his military skills is a snowball fight he and his classmates started and Napoleon organized his side and set up tactics and fought off his enemy and showed great leadership. This was a foreshadow for what was to come#. In this school, he prepared to become a French artillery lieutenant and later to become one of the greatest military heroes ever#.
His rise to power was very influential to his megalomania he gained power by using his intelligence and skills and this became a very important reason for his hunger for power. His consolidation was his first reason for his rise to power#. He took the title of First Consul. No leader in France had great national following after Napoleon he made a very strong impression in France. He had military popularity and yet lack of political identity#. He worked to unite French nation and become symbol of unity#. He created a central bank and coinage and promised general amnesty for political crimes and religious liberty#.
He made up a code of laws called the Napoleonic Code it was the first unified set of laws#. This new code greatly influenced continental Europe#. It gave France the freedom of conscience, supremacy of state, equality of all citizens before law and right of individuals to choose their own profession#. He upheld liberal ideas of philosophes. He compromised between old and new laws and included all assemblies#. This new set of laws changed France after the Revolution and gave people more freedom in religion and more rights.
Napoleon and the church were very influential with each other’s power. Their ideas were to have practical goals rather than religious beliefs. The Catholic church must be pacified to be established quickly#. This was in order to have more religious freedom. He started secret negotiations with the church. The Concordat in 1801 was started which was an agreement between Napoleon and the church French state that paid the clergy, the catholic seminaries reopen, and the clergy was responsible to the papacy#.
Napoleon’s greatest example of his megalomania was his battles and war strategies. He was a great leader and a great soldier. He was able to encourage his army and make them listen and his strategies worked and were very tactical. His downfall was his need for power. He wanted to win too much, he wanted to rule the world and was stopping at nothing to do it. One of his many campaigns was the Russian Campaign. This was a very important time during napoleon’s reign. He lost this battle. It occurred on December 2, 1805#. They decided to bring the Russians back into line so they gathered a Grande Armee of more than 500,000 men under the command of General Mikhail Kutusov.
The Russians retreated as Bonaparte’s troops swarmed across the frontier on the River Niemen. Kutusov retreated again and the French occupied a burning Moscow, the town was set on fire by the Russians themselves. Hoping for a Russian surrender that never came, Bonaparte waited in Moscow for five weeks. The weather got worse and many soldiers died of freezing and starvation. The Russians thought up a plan now called the scorched earth policy. This was where they retreated and burned all the crops and land so that Napoleon’s men had nothing to live off of. Bonaparte left the army on December 5th to return to Paris where a coup had been foiled and to raise another army. He returned to France with only 20,000 soldiers#.
Another campaign was the Italian campaign. In this campaign Napoleon was able to win. It was on March 31st that he issued the first orders for the invasion of Italy#. Napoleon marched across northern Italy, reaching Verona on June 3rd. Napoleon beat back Austrian attempts to relieve the fortified city at Castiglione, Arcole, and Rivoli. He advanced on Vienna and forced the Austrians to sign the Treaty of Campoformio in 1797. The treaty gave France the territory west of the Rhine and control of Italy#. This victorious campaign made him victorious; therefore encouraging his lust for power and control.
The next campaign which was not one of his better moments was the Egyptian campaign. This expedition would extend French influence into the Mediterranean and threaten British control in India. It began on May 19th in 1798 with an army of 35,000 men#. On June 11-12 Napoleon captured Malta, and on June 30th the task force reached Alexandria, Egypt. The city was taken, and they went up the west branch of the Nile to Cairo. The French drove the Mamluks back into the desert in the Battle of the Pyramids, and all of lower Egypt came under Napoleon’s control. Napoleon reorganized the government, the postal service, and the system for collecting taxes; he introduced the first printing presses; created a health department; built new hospitals for the poor in Cairo; and founded the Institut d’Egypte#. Although, the military aspect of Napoleon’s Egyptian venture was not so rewarding.
Another example of his weakening powers was the Continental System Napoleon thought would help all of Europe gain control over the British. France’s major competitor was still England. In 1805 continental system was introduced#. The goal was to have a continental boycott by all of France’s friends and subjects on English trade. Thus ruining English industry. Even though this was thought to have made a difference and worked England found Latin America and traded there. So, Napoleon’s system failed again and once again his need for power was not an advantage#.
Napoleon’s downfall was a very important part of his need for power because after losing the Russian campaign he came back to Paris and was captured by the British and exiled to Elba. after being exiled there he secretly escaped with 400 troops and returned to France#. When he returned he regained power in France. After returning he went to fight his most famous and last battle, the battle of Waterloo.
A British force had been in France and prepared to fight Napoleon at the field near the small town of Waterloo. The British were command by the Duke of Wellington who was a keen military leader and the French by Napoleon. Napoleon just happened to be sick that morning before the battle#. Napoleon was outgeneraled by Wellington and the British eventually defeated the French. Napoleon had sent in the invincible Imperial Guard and they ran in panic from the British soldiers. Napoleon was captured once more and was permanently dethroned and sent to the south Atlantic island of St. Helena where he died#.
Napoleon Bonaparte was one of the most influential figures in history. Because of his structured, intellectually stimulating youth Napoleon grew up to become one of the world’s greatest heroes. However, he was over ambitious which eventually caused the demise of his great empire. His megalomania became the reason for his downfall to which became his disadvantage over his rule of France. Though he died very shortly after being exiled, Napoleon’s ideas, legal code, and maxims on warfare keep his spirit alive throughout the world.
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