Last week in history, the class learned about Napoleon, the greatest and most controversial military leader of his time. The essential question was “What was Napoleon's impact on the social, economic and political systems of Europe?”, and I intend to answer just that within this post.
Napoleon at the time of his reign had most of Europe and the Americas under his control. He had conquered places from Portugal to Moscow, and many more places. Because he controlled so much of Europe at that point, he had almost full access to the Americas as well as a result of his Control of places such as Spain. The people of his time had very different opinions of Napoleon, and our class explored two people’s opinions of him: a French woman named Madame de Stael, and a military commander named Marshal Michel Ney. We also read an article entitled The Lost Voices of Napoleonic Histories for a more modern perspective on Napoleon. Madame de Stael was very much against Napoleon’s rule, accusing him of having “contempt for all the intellectual riches of human nature”, using “force and cunning” to get his way, and many more negative things. Ney, however, views Napoleon’s reign as a “legitimate dynasty”, calling him a “sovereign”, implying a greater and friendlier status than de Stael implied. Ney concludes with calling Napoleon’s army an “immortal legion”, showing off his true faith in him. The Lost Voices of Napoleonic Histories provides a series of more controversial and mixed perspectives of Napoleon, stemming from many different authors.
After reading this article and analyzing the sources, it can be concluded that Napoleon helped France yet hindered the world politically because of his unfair and unstoppable reign over countries that didn’t want to be ruled by him. Napoleon helped the world economically, providing a more unified and easy way of trading because many different countries were part of Napoleon’s kingdom. Socially, I believe Napoleon’s rule was a hybrid between good and bad because while the poor benefited from Napoleon’s new system, others did not like the fact that they were unwillingly under Napoleon’s control.
This is the amount of land that Napoleon controlled during his reign: