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Thread: What the world owes to Napoleon

  1. #1
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    Post What the world owes to Napoleon



    After hearing how many Americans think of Napoleon as a tyrant or a bad dictator (despite all he did for the young USA), I would like to remind people of all the long-lasting achievements of Napoleon or achievements that were allowed to exist during his reign.

    Napoleon did not start the French Revolution, but soon imposed himself as the greatest military strategist and national hero of the Revolution. At 30 years old (in 1799), he becomes First Consul (and de facto ruler) of France, 10 years after the French people revolted against their king. In 1804, Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of the French (not that he wasn't Emperor of France, as he was not an absolute monarch like the previous kings of France).

    Defeated by the Russians, Prussians, Austrians and Brits in 1814, with a short comeback in 1815, his actual time as the head of state of France was limited to 15 years, i.e. hardly longer than Franklin D. Roosevelt as president of the US, Francois Mitterand or Jacques Chirac as president of France, or even Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair as PM of the UK. Napoleon's reign was 10 years shorter than Stalin's, 12 years shorter than Mao Zedong, and 38 years shorter than Emperor Hirohito of Japan.

    However Napoleon's reign saw more changes, great cultural achievements and military success than under any of the above-mentioned leaders. He was more loved and admired at home (and abroad) than any of these other leaders.

    Here are some noteworthy accomplishements that can be attributed directly or indirectly to Napoleon :

    Sciences, discoveries & inventions

    - Decipherment of hieroglyphic writing by French scientists during Napoleon's Egyptian expedition.

    - invention of the ambulance service by a doctor of Napoleon's army.

    - invention of the submarine by American Robert Fulton commissioned by Napoleon. First launched in France in 1800.

    - Napoleon himself is given credit for discovering and proving Napoleon's theorem in mathematics.

    Government & Law

    - the Napoleonic Code : the first successful codification of a civil legal system in Europe. It has formed the basis of the private law systems in France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and their former colonies, thus becoming the most influencial legal system in the world.

    - the metric system : invented in 18th-century France, officially adopted in 1791, but only proclaimed as the only measure system in 1799. It is now the universal measurement system, which only the USA, Myanmar and Sierra Leone haven't adopted yet.

    - the tricolour French flag and the Marseillaise (national anthem) : symbol of the French Revolution, they were kept by Napoleon as the national flag, even during the Empire, which assured its survival to this day.

    Freedom & national cause

    - spread of the ideas of the Enlightenment throughout Europe and Latin America, including the concepts of Human Rights, equality of rights, constitution and citizenship.

    - part of Poland's national identity : Poland is the only country in the world to invoke Napoleon in its national anthem. Napoleon indeed contributed in the independence of Poland from Russia or Prussia.

    - the unification of Germany : Napoleon is credited with reorganizing what had been the Holy Roman Empire made up of more than 1,000 entities into a more streamlined network of 40 states providing the basis for the German Confederation and the future unification of Germany under the German Empire in 1871.

    - the Louisiana purchase by the USA : without Napoleon's decision to sell the French possessions making about 1/3 of the present-day USA, the US history would be very different. By this sale Napoleon more than doubled the size of USA, one of his rare ally, helped by France to gain its independence two decades earlier.

    - the European emancipation of the Jews : Napoleon played an important role by abolishing old laws in most of Europe restricting the Jews to ghettos, as well as the many laws that limited Jews' rights to property, worship, and careers. We could note that the Rothschild banking family of France was founded in 1812, under Napoleon's reign.

    Arts

    - some of France's greatest neoclassical artists were sponsored by Napoleon, such as Jacques-Louis David or Ingres.

    - the Empire style (named after Napoleon' Empire) in architecture, furniture, painting, etc.

    - Beethoven's Heroic Symphony, inspired by and originally dedicated to Napoleon.

    - Napoleon is also known for his spirit and has been a oft-mentioned source of quotations.
    Last edited by Maciamo; 07-10-06 at 16:42.
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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Interesting, But in France napoleon is not systematically seen as a national hero. What is bothering me is that you show only the positive side of Napoleon .

    First, it is maybe "a details", as would say Jean Marie Le Pen (FN), but behind his megalomany, and his dream of a great French Europe, there are millions of deads.


    **Louisiana**
    France was losing the war against English empire in North America and therefore, couln't afford to keep Louisiana. (I don't think the boundaries on your map (see link), was an English document..., whatever)
    They did the best to find an ally amongs native american. So, the best we could say, Napoleon was a good businessman, to sell Louisiana for 1 millions francs.

    **sciences and art**
    They were progresses in sciences and art, but it is dodgy to relate it the reign of Napoleon.

    **Poland**
    I wished a Polish participant would give his opinion. I went to Poland once, and there, polish people made me understand Napoleon was seen as a "butcher".

    **Napoleonic code**
    My knowledge on this topic, is fairly limited, but it is actually seen as a positive contribution given by the napoleon's reign.

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    Quote Originally Posted by buruburu69 View Post
    **Poland**
    I wished a Polish participant would give his opinion. I went to Poland once, and there, polish people made me understand Napoleon was seen as a "butcher".
    **Napoleonic code**
    My knowledge on this topic, is fairly limited, but it is actually seen as a positive contribution given by the napoleon's reign.
    You know now that you mentioned it I remember my husband also has commented that Napoleon was a brutal conqueror...and my husband is French so...but having said that he also believes Napolean was a great hero for France.
    Last edited by Minty; 10-10-06 at 00:31.

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    Napoleon certainly has caused thousands of deaths, but so have all military leaders in history. Yet, how many of them have achieved as much for society and culture as Napoleon ?
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    France owes Napoleon :

    In Economy

    - the creation of the Bank of France
    - the creation of the Chamber of Commerce
    - the creation of the Paris Stock Exchange
    - the creation of the Cour des Comptes (Court of Financial Auditors)

    In Education

    - the creation of Lycées (French highschools)
    - the creation of the baccalauréat.

    In Law & Government

    - the Napoleonic Code (or "French Civil Code", also used in Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and their former colonies).
    - the Penal Code
    - the creation of the French Senate
    - the creation of French prefectures
    - the creation of the Conseil d'État (Council of State)

    In Architecture (in Paris)

    - the two Arches of Triumph in Paris
    - the Vendôme Column
    - the Madeleine Church
    - the new facade of the Palais Bourbon (National Assembly of France)
    - the junction between the Louvre and the Palace of the Tuileries
    - the Père-Lachaise cemetery
    - the jardin des Plantes, the jardin du Luxembourg, and many other gardens

    Others

    - the Légion d'honneur
    - the house numbering schemes in Paris


    What is amazing is that all these institutions still exist and function nowadays, and have spawn children in other countries. For instance, Belgium also has a Cour des Comptes and a Conseil d'Etat, copied on the French model.

    In this regard, Napoleon is probably the single ruler with the most lasting influence in modern French society, as well as abroad.
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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Minty View Post
    You know now that you mentioned it I remember my husband also has commented that Napoleon was a brutal conqueror...
    Outside the Francophone world, and especially in English-speaking countries, Napoleon is often seen as a tyrant, a brutal conqueror who caused the death of millions of people during his wars to control all Europe.

    But the reality is quite different. Napoleon never wanted war with the rest of Europe. He mentioned many times that all he wanted was peace, but the old monarchies of Europe would do everything they could to destroy Revolutionary France and restore the Bourbon on the throne of France.

    It is obvious that European monarchs feared the ideas of the French Revolution. They feared for their own heads and just couldn't let the ideas of freedom and human rights spread to their country. That is why they couldn't ignore Napoleonic France and let them live and prosper in peace.

    Everytime a peace treaty was forced upon European states by Napoleon, it was broken by them a few years later. Napoleon was betrayed all the time by foreigners and French monarchists alike. He should never have taken an old aristocrat like Tayllerand as his foreign minister. Tayllerand plotted against Napoleon during his diplomatic missions, and even after being destituted. Napoleon also shouldn't have pardoned so many émigrés (French nobles who had left France during the Revolution).

    Napoleon dearly wished for peace with Russia. He tried all he could to become friend on a personal level with Czar Alexander, but was betrayed. When he had to go to war againt Russia, all Europe was behind him. Austria, Prussia and other German states all provided tens of thousands of troops. But once things got sour, they all changed sides and join the ranks of the Russian army. That's the best proof that they were only waiting to turn their back on the leader of the French Revolution.

    At home, however, Napoleon was loved and cherished by the ordinary people and soldiers. He was more than a national hero and emperor, he was almost seen as a god (in the Roman sense). After his abdication and exile to Elba, the French population quickly missed him and wished for his return. Less than 1 year later, he landed in the French Riviera and marched towards Paris with just a few hundreds followers. People hailed him in every town and village where he passed, and he arrived in Paris with tens of thousands of supporters, without having to shoot a single bullet.

    Seeing the fervour of the population towards the ex-emperor, Louis XVIII and the aristocracy quickly escaped to Brussels. No sooner had he arrived in Paris that the new government had already been formed, with 300,000 soldiers ready to die for him.

    But Napoleon was sick and weakened from his suicide attempt by poison following his abdication one year earlier. His stomach ached permanently, he vomitted and his stools were filled with blackened blood. Completely worn out, having lost his best generals, he stood no chance at Waterloo against a allied army of over 1 million soldiers attacking him just 2 months after his return in Paris.

    Napoleon could have fought harder, raising new troops to protect France from the foreign invadors. But his health and moral was at its lowest. He just didn't have the energy to do it anymore.

    He planned to flee to the USA, but eventually chose to give himself in to the British, hoping to be treated like the ex-monarch he was and live peacefully the rest of his life in the English countryside. But the Brits only considered him as nothing more than a revolutionary general, like the other European monarchies. Napoleon was thus considered a war prisoner and sent to St Helena.

    Napoleon protested, saying he prefered to be imprisoned in England, or even at Botany Bay in Australia, but the Brits refused and insisted on sending him to the most isolated piece of rock on earth they could think of - a sure sign how afraid they were that he escaped again.

    All this to say that Napoleon was not a tyrant, but a beloved ruler, and that he was a blood-thirsty conqueror, but a head of state wishing peace and forced to wage war against all Europe to protect the ideas of the French Revolution. He only did what his people wanted him to do, but did it with more talent, bravado and dedication than almost anybody else could have.
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    Exclamation get your facts checked !

    Quote Originally Posted by buruburu69 View Post
    Interesting, But in France napoleon is not systematically seen as a national hero. What is bothering me is that you show only the positive side of Napoleon .

    First, it is maybe "a details", as would say Jean Marie Le Pen (FN), but behind his megalomany, and his dream of a great French Europe, there are millions of deads.


    **Louisiana**
    France was losing the war against English empire in North America and therefore, couln't afford to keep Louisiana. (I don't think the boundaries on your map (see link), was an English document..., whatever)
    They did the best to find an ally amongs native american. So, the best we could say, Napoleon was a good businessman, to sell Louisiana for 1 millions francs.

    **sciences and art**
    They were progresses in sciences and art, but it is dodgy to relate it the reign of Napoleon.

    **Poland**
    I wished a Polish participant would give his opinion. I went to Poland once, and there, polish people made me understand Napoleon was seen as a "butcher".

    **Napoleonic code**
    My knowledge on this topic, is fairly limited, but it is actually seen as a positive contribution given by the napoleon's reign.
    I don't know where did you get this details and facts but they're not accurate !!

    Im from Poland and people here don't consider him a butcher (i think its a false statement cause it would be a hypocrisy if it really was said by a Pole)
    Poland was partitioned and sought to use Napoleon as a means to regain its freedom (something that Napoleon was obvious of) well he is a briliant ruller and commander and ironically he is somehow twisted in history of Poland to be ohnest we treat him here as our king (since the Warsaw Dutchy was rulled by him) and thus it might be a suprisse but if Poland ever had an emperror that would have to be Napoleon ! People here respect him and we know that in the end he was betrayed ironically however Napoleon's fate resemble Polish fate as Napoleon's enemies were also Polish enemies and if Napoleon had an foreign ally it was Poland !

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    Thanks

    Thanks for this wonderful stuff.

    CSK

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    Under Napoleon, France annexed Brittany, Flanders from the Dutch, Alsace and Lorraine from the Germans, Savoy from the Italians, Nice from the Italians, Papalcy of Avignon, Corsica from the Italians, Catlania from the Spanish Catalans and the Basque country from the Spanish Basques. Plus probably inspired France to perpetually try to enlargen it's borders to this day aka Belgium, Switzerland and Saarland.

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Derek Knatchbull View Post
    Under Napoleon, France annexed Brittany, Flanders from the Dutch, Alsace and Lorraine from the Germans, Savoy from the Italians, Nice from the Italians, Papalcy of Avignon, Corsica from the Italians, Catlania from the Spanish Catalans and the Basque country from the Spanish Basques. Plus probably inspired France to perpetually try to enlargen it's borders to this day aka Belgium, Switzerland and Saarland.
    You should really revise your French history !

    Brittany has been part of the kingdom of France since the Middle Ages. Even when it passed to the English crown by marriage, it was still part of France, just like Normandy. That is why the English kings had ambitions over the French throne. Brittany shifted from English to French rule at the end of the Hundred's Years War, and became an autonomous region of France by the Edict of Union between Brittany and France in 1532.

    Flanders was originally a county of the Kingdom of France when it was created in the 9th century. It remained French until the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302, when the Flemings gained a short-lived independence (only 2 years) before becoming French again. Flanders passed to the Habsburgs by marriage in 1482, but its western half was re-annexed by Louis XIV between 1659 and 1678. West Flanders has belonged to France ever since and is now part of the departement du Nord.

    Alsace and Lorraine were originally German, but Lorraine was first annexed to France in 1552, and Alsace in 1648, at the end of the 30 Years' War. Germany only recovered Alsace and Lorraine in 1871, then lost it again in 1918. Napoleon had nothing to do with that either.

    Catalonia was also originally a French county, in fact created by Charlemagne and part of France since 843. It only became independent from France in 1412, when the county of Barcelona passed to the House of Aragon. Spain was briefly annexed to France under Napoleon, but became independent again. Actually the kings of Spain have been the Bourbons of France since 1713, which is why Napoleon was so eager to dethrone them, as part of the French revolutionary ambitions.

    The County of Nice was originally part of the County of Provence, which goes back to Carolingian times. The first son of the King of France was styled Count of Provence, the equivalent of the Prince of Wales in Britain. Nice itself was in fact only included in France in 1860, a long time after Napoleon I.

    Corsica was sold to France by the Genoese in 1764 (and definitely annexed in 1769), under Louis XV, just before Napoleon was born.

    The Papacy of Avignon was always French. It was the way of the King of France to have his own pope, against the one in Rome. The papacy lasted from 1309 to 1377. Saying that it has anything to do with Napoleon shows that you lack the most basic understanding of European history.

    Only Savoy in your list was annexed to France during the French Revolution, but not even by Napoleon (it was in 1792, 7 years before Napoleon became Consul).

    Belgium has never been part of France, except between 1792 and 1815, like most of Europe. Wallonia (French-speaking Belgium) is considering joining France from its own will, should Belgium split in two.
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    0 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Pretending those places where French, way before they were, dose not stop the fact that they got annexed. What would you like to say about France's failed attempt to annex Germany's Saarland all the way up until 1960! ?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Derek Knatchbull View Post
    Pretending those places where French, way before they were, dose not stop the fact that they got annexed. What would you like to say about France's failed attempt to annex Germany's Saarland all the way up until 1960! ?
    Saarland is a small bordering region. It could be considered as part of the Alsace-Lorraine region in the way that it is a buffer between the two countries, and locals see themselves as both a bit French and German.

    Incidentally, you really should do something for your English spelling.
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    Without Napoleon would Waterloo be world reknown? I think not.
    It was the war against Napoleon that taught us (Sweden) that war is not worth the effort. We haven't been to war since!

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    Smile

    "What the world owes to Napoleon"?
    I don't know very much about what THE WORLD owes to him but WE owe him our royal family: Bernadotte. This interesting fact is little-known outside of Sweden. Have a read! :) com/royalty/sweden/history.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miss Marple's nephew View Post
    "What the world owes to Napoleon"?
    I don't know very much about what THE WORLD owes to him but WE owe him our royal family: Bernadotte. This interesting fact is little-known outside of Sweden. Have a read! :) com/royalty/sweden/history.html
    Yes and no. It's true that Bernadotte was a field marshal serving under Napoleon, but the men couldn't stand each others. Bernadotte often plotted to overthrow Napoleon out of sheer jealousy. He eventually satisfied his political ambitions in Sweden rather than in France. So I wouldn't say that Sweden owes its present royal family to Napoleon, but very indirectly Napoleon might have played a role.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maciamo View Post
    Yes and no. It's true that Bernadotte was a field marshal serving under Napoleon, but the men couldn't stand each others. Bernadotte often plotted to overthrow Napoleon out of sheer jealousy. He eventually satisfied his political ambitions in Sweden rather than in France. So I wouldn't say that Sweden owes its present royal family to Napoleon, but very indirectly Napoleon might have played a role.
    I don't understand what it is you want to say. Are you saying that without Napoleon we would have got the Bernadotte royal family in Sweden anyway? I think you're making an arguement for the simple sake of arguing but it's not washing very well.

    Hitler didn't actually murder any Jews himself but I think it would be naive to say that he wasn't responsible for the Holocaust or any other European consequences of WW II.

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    He was a good general and good understanding of tactics but he led many of his men to their deaths and left his men in Egypt to die as well. During the battle of Paris he even wanted his men to die despite being exhausted and beaten.

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    Napolean and Hitler were the last world conquerors and failed. It is much more difficult to conquer the world as the war technology makes it near impossible for any future conqueror. Both Napolean and Hitler affected the world. Napolean and Hitler affected the European population as many people had to move and met their future partners and thus mixed the populations more. The Second World War is a good example where many Americans and Canadian service met their brides in England, British soldiers meeting French girls and marrying them, etc. I am one of those where our parents met because of the war good or bad. Maybe 50% of the people living would not be born if there was no war. Our parents would have someone else. Just imagine.

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    Well, with nearly two centuries between us and Napoleon, it's easy to forget the negative things and only see the positive things he left behind. Probably the same thing will happen to later dictators - Stalin is already popular again, at least in Russia (SIGH!)

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    1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    Quote Originally Posted by kaz View Post
    During the battle of Paris he even wanted his men to die despite being exhausted and beaten.
    Yeah, dying is so much worse when you are exhausted.
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