The Napoleonic Empire was doomed because of its inherent and self-defeating contradictions. Elucidate.

Published: June 29, 2020

Napoleon’s own personality proved to be the greatest danger to the future of his empire. He had once said that he loves power as a musician loves his violin. This craze for power raised him to greatest heights but same craze led to his doom. In his efforts to extend the French Empire and crush Britain, Napoleon made three disastrous misjudgements.

England’s navy had been the strongest in Europe ever since its defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588. The defeat of Napoleon in the Battle of Trafalgar made it clear that Britain was superior to him in the naval affairs, so he tried to undermine the naval power by resorting to the Continental System.

The Continental System triggered an economic war between Britain and France. This system not only badly affected the economy of France but other countries also. The system was loose and his own people did not adhere to the system. In order to make a tight blockade, he was compelled to achieve some more regional conquests.

The confrontation with the faith of people made him an enemy of the Spanish and Portuguese. This resulted into huge losses by the Spanish Guerrillas. His despotism throttled the liberty of his own people and the people whom he had won by war. After becoming an emperor, he stepped seeking advice from competent advisors.

Napoleon was no doubt a military genius and a brilliant administrator. Still, all his victories must be measured against the millions of lives that were lost in his wars. Almost his entire army was finished in the invasion of Russia. His overwhelmingly drive to power led him to recruit more and more Non-French soldiers, who had little loyalty towards him.

The most important result of the military might and threats of Napoleon was that the conquered people became more and more conscious of their loyalty to their own nations. Napoleon had to face the violent opposition of nationalists. Spirit of nationalism gave European countries justification in opposing the foreign rule.

The Peninsular war could not be won by him because of his absurd and erroneous step to dethrone the Spanish Emperor Charles IV in 1808, and place his brother Joseph.

Out of most of his achievements, only a few could have lasting impact such as his law code and some reforms in Government.

Alexis de Tocqueville summed up Napoleon’s character by stating that “ He was as great as a man can be without virtue.” {Source of statement: Europe since Napoleon by Alfred A. Knopf}.

Model Questions Category:  

Comments