Napoleonic war

Napoleonic war

How did the period of the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) effect Europe? What other countries/kingdoms in Europe were affected by Napoleon?

The Napoleonic Wars were a time of upheaval and devastating change for all of Europe. This came directly following the French Revolution and the instability left Napoleon with the power to direct France to impose the new sense of Nationalism across Europe by conquering the majority of European lands.

As Emperor, from 1804-1814, Napoleon drove east to win battles in Austria in 1805, Prussia in 1806 and Russia in 1807. Then Napoleon drove French forces South and would take Spain in 1808, where he repelled a British expedition force back to sea. “Switzerland came under French protection, Spain, northeast Italy, Naples and Westphalia became satellite kingdoms under the Bonaparte family. Only reduced kingdoms of Austria and Prussia preserved some semblance of independence (689).”[1] England’s strong navy was one reason for Napoleon’s decision not to invade there. Maxfield (2009) says that his frustration with England and attempts to avenge them probably caused his demise.

France blockaded England from entry to European ports across the continent to stifle their economy. By 1810, this had a severe effect on England who underwent a depression while France flourished in the Industrial Revolution. This did not last long, however, and by 1811 France’s textile industry could not obtain raw materials to sustain itself and France encountered, “bank failures, factory closings, strikes, poverty, riots and areas of starvation.”[2] Russia also suffered under the blockade and Czar Alexander forged peace with Turkey, made a pact with Sweden, proposed an alliance with England, opened up his ports to all nations then declared war on France.

Napoleon’s push to Russia ended in defeat and many lives were lost from the conscripted army of many nations of whom less than half were French. The French, who started with over 600,000 men on the march to Moscow “started to freeze and starve and finally retreated. The Russians cut them down until only 1/5 of the French army remained alive.”[3] Russian troops followed the French into Central Europe and gathered Prussian, Bohemian, Austrian and Swedish help to defeat the French at the Battle of Leipzig in October of 1813. Nations started converging on Paris and led to Napoleon’s exile to the island of Elba in 1814 and Louis XVIII took over the rule of France. Napoleon eventually was able to flee Elba with loyal troops and attempted to regain his power as Emperor. It was a poor decision as now the other European nations had bolstered up troop strength and the French again were defeated in 1815 by a conglomerate of European troops, including the British. Napoleon was exiled again to St. Helena off Africa and remained there until he died in 1821.

The effect these Wars had on Europe helped nations to unify, develop new resources, establish military alliances, forge trade pacts with other nations and recover from economic woes. This time in history would influence partnerships and create problems that are direct causes of future conflicts up to and including World War I.

1 Jack Maxfield, A Comprehensive Outline of World History, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0, 2009,

2 Ibid, p. 689.

3 Ibid, p. 698.v

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