The French Revolution can be reasonably considered as the beginning of the modern era. Taking of the Bastille on July 12, 1789 is considered to be the beginning of the revolution and as for its end different historians consider July 27, 1794 (The Thermidorian Reaction), or November 9, 1799 (The coup of 18 Brumaire).
Thus the French Revolution began and it actually gave the birth to famous general and emperor Napoleon Bonaparte who unequivocally endorsed it.
By the time of his appearance near Toulon (September 1793) he was a captain of regular artillery, confirmed the title of lieutenant-colonel of volunteers. Already in Toulon in October 1793, Bonaparte was appointed to the post of the battalion commander, then to the post of the chief of artillery in the army. When Toulon was taken he received a rank of brigadier general. Here his career of successful general starts. Then he was the one who showed himself during suppressing revolt in Paris, got the rank of major general and appointed commander of the rear. Suppressing revolt in Paris in 1795, the command of the entire Italian army in 1796-1798, the command of the Egyptian expedition ”“ it shows that commanders had confidence in Napoleon, and as for the people, they found a savior, liberator in the person of Napoleon, they always greeted him with delight and cries.
In November 1799, Napoleon made a coup d’etat, and became the first consul, in fact, thereby concentrating all power in his hands. This happened at the time when the old Europe was in complete disorganization.
All this has made Napoleon the Lord of the European continent and the idea of “the universal monarchy”ť under the rule of France floated in his imagination. “In early life he may have been a sincere republican; but he hated anarchy and disorder, and, before his campaign in Italy was over, he had begun to plan to make himself ruler of France. He worked systematically to transform the people’s earlier ardor for liberty into a passion for military glory and plunder”ť (Cardoza, 2011)
Napoleon turned his attention to the conquest of Europe, and France was forced to “compete for his attention”ť with his ambitious plans. Bonaparte had a difficult task. It was necessary to create an almost new system of reign, to restore the finance system which was in a very confusing situation, with the complete absence of credit, and somehow end up with a second coalition. Suppressing all manifestations of political freedom, Bonaparte vigorously implemented the positive part of his program.
On May 18, 1804 proclaimed himself the Emperor, established a dictatorial regime and conducted a series of reforms; in all legislative acts contained equality before the law created by the revolution and destroyed the remnants of feudalism. In this way he continued the aims of revolution.
Since 1804 a new era in French history began – the era of Empire. Napoleon’s reign was filled with wars and at the beginning with very happy times for France. Economic situation in France consolidated many achievements of the revolutionary era and created extremely favorable conditions for development of agriculture and industry. He was extremely popular among mass.
The victorious Napoleonic wars helped to make France a major power on the continent. However, the failure of Napoleon’s rivalry with the Great Britain did not allow him to consolidate this status in the full measure. The defeat of the Grand Army in the War of 1812 against Russia was the beginning of the collapse of the Empire of Napoleon I. In 1814, when anti-French coalition troops entered in Paris Napoleon I was forced to abdicate. He again won the French throne in March 1815 (The Hundred Days) and after the defeat at Waterloo he again abdicated (June 22, 1815). Till the end of all these successful and failure battles he was the first person on the field. His enemies admiring of him and his followers was proud of him. “I used to say of him (Napoleon) that his presence on the field made the difference of forty thousand men.”ť (Niland, 2010). Napoleon did not care of the situation in his country anymore, he was trying to build Empire and he felt the first feeling of defeat. “There is only one step from the sublime to the ridiculous”ť (Niland, 2010). He started to show his despair and the shame of being stopped in his quest for an Empire following the retreat from Moscow, 1812.
Napoleon’s policy in the early years of his reign had the support of the population and it was the result of his revolution intentions. But gradually, people began feeling tiresome of the war, which lasted for nearly 20 years. Also in 1810, the economic crisis broke out again. People started noticing that he changed his goals and they are completely different from revolutionary initial aims. He took another direction in his policy. “Washington and Bonaparte emerged from the womb of democracy: both of them born to liberty, the former remained faithful to her, the latter betrayed her”ť (Blakemore, 2010)
Revolution led to the collapse of the Old Regime and the assertion of a new, more “democratic and progressive”ť society in France. However, speaking about the achievements and sacrifices of the revolution, many historians are inclined to conclude that the same goals could be achieved without such a huge number of victims. It is estimated that from 1789 to 1815 only during the revolutionary terror in France up to 2 million civilians have died, and another 2 million of soldiers and officers died in the wars.
At the same time, some authors pointed out that the Revolution brought to the French people relief from the heavy yoke, which could not be achieved by other means. Battles of Napoleon entered into the military manuals. And in memory of descendants it has remained as a military genius and statesman with a phenomenal memory and capacity for work, and as a gifted diplomat and an artist with the charisma that allowed him to easily have people to come”¦ “Why, in this age of nuclear weapons and guided missiles, should the student of military affairs be concerned with the campaigns of Napoleon ?”ť (Nakoryakov, 2010).
Blakemore, Porter R. The Fall of Napoleon: The Allied Invasion of France, 1813-1814 – By Michael V Leggiere. The Historian, 2010, Volume 72, Number 2, pp. 476-477.
Cardoza, Anthony. Risorgimento: The History of Italy from Napoleon to Nation State. Journal of Modern Italian Studies, January 2011, Volume 16, Number 1, pp. 137-139.
Nakoryakov, Martin. Napoleon, innovation, modernization, and science. Journal of Engineering Thermophysics, December 2010, Volume 19, Number 4, pp. 193-195.
Niland, Richard. The World of Yesterday: Conrad, European History, and Napoleonic Legend. Conrad and History, February 2010, Volume 12, Number 4, pp. 146-151.