By 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte had risen from obscurity to become the most celebrated military figure in France. His ambitions extended far beyond the battlefield and on November 9th 1799, Napoleon seized power in a coup. Ten years after the beginning of the French Revolution, France had gone from an absolute monarchy to the personal rule of a military commander. In 1804, Napoleon elevated his political status to that of Emperor. By then he had ushered in the series of far-reaching reforms of the Napoleonic Code that would endure to the present day.
This course will examine Napoleon’s impact on history from the time he was in power from 1799 until his final defeat in 1815. Much of the course will focus on the military campaigns undertaken by Napoleon in the series of wars that consumed Europe until his defeat at Waterloo on June 18th 1815. There will be a particular emphasis on considering Napoleon’s reputation as one of history’s greatest military commanders. This will involve examination of key battles such as Marengo, Austerlitz, Jena and Friedland.
The decision to invade Russia marked the beginning of the end of Napoleon’s military and political domination. The scale of the defeat combined with the military reverses of the Peninsular War led to the War of the Sixth Coalition. He was forced to abdicate in April 1814. The attempt in 1815 to revive his power failed and he would live out the remainder of his life in exile on St. Helena. An extraordinary life.