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Napoleon's Military Achievements and Blunders

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The French Republic had seen many outstanding political figures, kings and emperors. However, the only leader who managed to conquer almost the whole Europe was Napoleon Bonaparte, also known as Napoleon I (Abbott, 2005).

Napoleon established the French imperial monarchy and expanded his ideals throughout Europe. He assisted in the establishment of the well-known Napoleonic Code. Interestingly enough, many people associate him primarily with his military achievements. Napoleon successfully fought numerous wars against mighty European coalitions. Those wars became known as Napoleonic Wars. As a result, he is considered to be the one of the most successful military commanders during the whole European history. Moreover, thousands of students of the military colleges study his campaigns and military strategies.

Military and Diplomatic Achievements of Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte was born in the middle of the 18 century, on 15 August 1769. His motherland was Corsica.  He studied at the French religious school in Autun. Later, Napoleon won the admission to a military academy in Brienne-le-Chateau (McLynn, 1997). He also trained at the elite Ecole royal military college during the 1784-1785. He was appointed the second lieutenant there.

In 1793, Napoleon obtained a rank of the artillery commander during the blockade of the town Toulon. He invented a plan that forced the British troops to evacuate. As a result, Napoleon was promoted to brigadier general (Abbott, 2005).In 1796, he inflicted a crushing defeat on the troops of the Kingdom of Sardinia and Austria as the commander of the Italian Army. Thus, he was proclaimed as one of the best commanders of the Republic.

In 1799, he returned and committed coup d'etat. Thus, the regime of consulate had been established. Napoleon was elected as the First Council. In 1804, he became the Emperor of France (McLynn, 1997).

Napoleon was obsessed with the idea to cut all trade relations between the United Kingdom and Europe. Meanwhile, Britain united with Austria and Russia, establishing the Third Coalition. In his turn, Napoleon had a plan to land on the British continent. However, the British fleet under the command of Admiral Nelson defeated the Grande Armée at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 (Bell, 2007).

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Napoleon could not accept defeat. As a result, he crushed Austria and Russia at the Battle of Austerlitz. It was his first prominent military achievement. The Grande Armée that consisted of 72,000 soldiers withstood the 85, 000 army of the Third Coalition (McLynn, 1997). The Russian king Alexander I and the Austrian Emperor Francis II left the battlefield saving their lives. Thus, Napoleon got the victory and put an end to the Third Coalition. As a result, the Treaty of Pressburg was signed. According to the Treaty of Pressburg, Austria ceded its territory in Italy and German to France. Thus, the Holy Roman Empire ceased to exist. In its turn, Napoleon created the Confederation of the Rhine in the conquered lands.

Frightened by the growing influence of France, Prussia started the War of the Fourth Coalition in 1806. The first fight was named the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt. The French forces defeated the Prussian army. In 1807, the Grande Armée fought with the army of the Russian Empire at Eylau. Finally, the army of Napoleon crushed the Russian forces at the Battle of Friedland in 1807 (Bell, 2007). By the end of the war, Napoleon spread his hegemony over the majority of countries in Europe. Interestingly enough, Napoleon did not rule all those territories. He appointed the members of his family to control his conquered lands. The War of the Fourth Coalition was the second biggest military achievement of Napoleon.

By 1812, the relations between the French Empire and the Russian Empire worsened. The most prominent and bloodiest battle during the Russian campaign was the Battle of Borodino. The military strategy of Napoleon was characterized by the forced pursuit of the captured territory. However, Napoleon had to stay on the battlefield because of the heavy losses of the Grande Armée. The stay on the battlefield was the worst blunder of Napoleon. As a result, he was forced to retire. Shortly afterwards, he lost the rest of territories of his empire. In 1814, Napoleon abdicated (Abbott, 2005). Thereafter, he was exiled to the island Elba.

In 1815, Napoleon rose to power again but reigned only 100 days. He gathered a big army to attack the European enemies. His last military campaign was the Battle of Waterloo. He fought simultaneously against the two armies: the British and Prussian. Napoleon was defeated. The Battle of Waterloo ceased the Napoleonic Era. Napoleon Bonaparte died at the St. Helena Island in 1821 (Abbott, 2005).

The Internal Politics of Napoleon

Napoleon succeeded not only in military affairs but also in internal politics. In 1804, he gave assent to the Civil Code, also known as the Napoleonic Code. The document significantly changed the system of civil law. The code confirmed such revolutionary ideas as freedom of occupation, legal equality of all people, and freedom of religious views.

Napoleon updated the system of French education, especially the system of national secondary schools. He introduced a stable schooling structure and strong discipline (McLynn, 1997). In addition, the curriculum was standardized. Moreover, he provided all schools with highly-skilled teaching staff.  


It is an indisputable fact that Napoleon was the most famous French military and political figure during the whole history of the Republic. He advanced from the position of artillery officer to that of the Emperor of the French. Napoleon pursued numerous wars with the United Kingdom, Austria, Prussia, and Russia during 20 years. The period of those wars is known as the Napoleonic Wars. By the end of 1812, he spread his hegemony throughout Europe.  

Napoleon also established the Civil Code. That legal reform had a significant impact not only on the French institutions of civil law, but also on the jurisdictions of civil rights of many European countries.

Thus, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte played a significant role in the European history.

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