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Napoleon Resources

napoleon.jpg (16863 bytes)Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) was born on the island of Corsica, the son of the assessor to the royal tribunal. Granted free military education in France, he studied French at Autun before entering the military schools at Brienne (1779) and Paris (1784). In 1785 he was commissioned second lieutenant of artillery and was garrisoned at Valence. At Auxonne he saw the beginnings of the French Revolution, but more concerned with Corsica than France, he went home on leave to organize a revolution of his own. Eventually given command of the artillery at the siege of Toulon (1793) he was promoted general of the brigade.

On Robespierre's fall, Napoleon was arrested for conspiracy because of his friendship with the younger Robespierre but the charges were dropped and he was released. In 1795 he helped defeat Parisian counter-revolutionaries and the following year he was appointed commander of the Army of Italy. Two days before his departure for Italy he married Joséphine, widow of a guillotined general. When Napoleon's position in Italy was secured he advanced on Vienna. In 1797, Austria signed the Treaty of Campo Formio by which France obtained Belgium, the Ionian Islands and Lombardy. The Directory (1795-99), fearing Napoleon's power and ambition, hoped to keep him away from Paris by giving him command of the Army of England. Realizing the folly of attacking England, Napoleon set out an an expedition to Egypt in the hope of damaging British trade with India. Ultimately, the French fleet was destroyed on August 1, 1798 by Nelson at the Battle of the Nile. Suffering a series of setbacks, Napoleon secretly left Egypt for France on August 22, 1799.

In 1799, members of the Directory conspired with Napoleon to take over the French government by means of a coup d'état (this event is known as the 18th Brumaire, November 9, 1799). It was successful, and Napoleon quickly asserted his superior intelligence and will over others. By 1802 he had full power (elected first consul for life), and by 1804, he proclaimed himself Emperor Napoleon I.

The period of European history from 1799 to 1815 is generally known as the Napoleonic Age. Napoleon gained power not only in France, but directly and indirectly throughout much of continental Europe. Within France he crushed threats from both radicals and royalists who wanted to extend or reverse the gains of the French Revolution. Through administrative reforms, codification of laws, and settlement with the Church, he institutionalized some of the changes brought about by the revolution and took the heart out of others. Backed by the ideological force of the revolution and strong nationalism, Napoleon's armies extended French rule, institutions and influence throughout Europe. In 1814 Napoleon's forces, weakened by a disastrous Russian campaign, were defeated by a coalition of European powers. After Napoleon's defeat, the major powers, meeting at Vienna, attempted to establish a new stability that would minimize the revolutionary and Napoleonic experience.

More Information
Institute on Napoleon and the French Revolution (Florida State)
Napoleon Bonaparte Internet Guide

The Napoleon Series
Napoleonic Literature
The Napoleonic Guide


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Bruce, Evangeline. Napoleon & Josephine. New York: Kensington Books, 1995.
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________. Dictionary of Napoleonic Wars. London: Greenhill Books, 1979.
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Esdaile, Charles. The Wars of Napoleon. New York: Longman Group Limited, 1995.
Foreman, Laura. Napoleon's Lost Fleet. New York: Random House, 1999.
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Gulland, Sandra. The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.
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Hofschroer, Peter. 1815 The Waterloo Campaign. Pennsylvania: Stackpole Books, 1998.
Howarth, David. Waterloo: Day of Battle. New York: Antheneum, 1966.
Johnston, R. M. The Corsican: A Diary of Napoleon's Life in His Own Words. New York: Houghton Mifflin, Company, 1910.
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