Vive l’Empéreur !! (2)

Last time, I wrote about how Napoleon wanted to export the liberal values of the Enlightenment across Europe. And how the British upper classes wanted none of it. They wanted to keep society as it was, rotten the core, but with them in charge of every facet of life. And that’s why they paid countries such as Austria and Russia £65,000,000 over the years to attack and annihilate Napoleon, without any English lives being lost:

What a chance we missed by ignoring the ideas Napoleon eschewed. Just look at what Napoleon achieved in his own country.

The Code Civil was “a fundamental change in the nature of the civil law legal system with its stress on clearly written and accessible law”.  It was created by committees of experts and closely monitored by the Emperor. He set up other codes for criminal and commercial law:

code civilxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

He set up a system which established “due process”, the requirement that the state must respect the legal rights of its citizens, and which protects the individual from a powerful government.
Napoleon carried out steps which would allow both Germany and Italy to emerge within less than a century as unified nations. He helped the USA to expand with the Louisiana Purchase:

lousisa n purchase

He founded the Légion d’Honneur, awarded for excellence and achievements not just in war, but also for achievements by civilians which helped the French nation. Here is the first ever award, presented by the Emperor himself:

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Napoleon abolished the ancient system which forced peasants to work as medieval serfs for their lord and master, carrying out specific jobs every year. This helped the growth of a money based economy, rather than paying rent, for example, by any other means, such as barter or the carrying out of physical tasks.

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Napoléon abolished the medieval guilds, allowing the birth of the entrepreneur.

He abolished ghettos for Europe’s Jews who were made equal to everybody else. In fact, everybody enjoyed equality in every field.

The power of the church was vastly reduced, especially their ecclesiastical courts. The Inquisition came to an end. (Nobody expected that.)

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His military innovations led Wellington to say, when asked who was the greatest general of the day: “In this age, in past ages, in any age, Napoleon.”

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Napoleon gave enormous support to the metric system, introduced by the French revolutionary government in 1799. He made use of the process of storing and preserving perishable food in tins. His armies were the first to use the baguette:

French became the official language of the state. No more Basque, Breton, Corsican, Occitan nor, indeed, any of the countless dialects spoken in Europe’s second biggest country. Instead, everybody spoke French.

Secondary education was supported by the state, and lycées were established. State secondary schools followed the same system as nowadays. He made major efforts to keep education totally free from church interference. He introduced scholarships for poor students.

He introduced science into the school syllabus. In England, the church were still busy at this time trying to stop vaccination being introduced as anti-religious. Not so in France:

And that is not the end of Napoléon’s list. More next time.

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22 Comments

Filed under France, History, Politics

22 responses to “Vive l’Empéreur !! (2)

  1. Pierre Lagacé

    Love it John.
    I have learned a lot.

    • Thank you. I learned a lot too. Over here Napoleon is regarded as another Hitler and I thought the same until I watched the programmes and then read the book. What an Empire the British would have had if Napoleon had been our ruler instead of the Hanoverians. We might even have treated the members of that Empire as equals, you never know.

  2. He was certainly a visionary and a reformer. The Crown saw him as a threat, clearly they wanted rid of him. £65,000,000 is a great deal of money in the 19th century. Thanks for an informative post John.

  3. I have always been a big fan of Napoleon I have to say, also Robespierre but history hasn’t been so kind to Maximilen! History intrigues me, especially how revisionist theories keep cropping up. Even Winston Churchill isn’t safe from reinterpretation!

    • I think with Napoleon we English have just been fed a load of propaganda that was in the interests of the ruling classes whose conduct towards their subjects at that time was frequently appalling. The Corn Laws, for example, were against the common man as was the seizure of common land by the nobility. The upper classes were rightly terrified of revolution but all we got, alas, was the burning down of Nottingham Castle.

  4. Our Education system in Aust. was always very English based. None of this would have ever been very well known. A very interesting post John. Thanks.

    • Exactly what I myself vthought. So many of these achievements by Napoleon have just been ignored because it shows our own rulers in such a poor light. Glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Well that was a real eye opener. What a visionary he was, is there really more he did? How fascinating!

    • You sound just as surprised as I was when I watched the TV series. I had always wondered why we view him as a wide eyed lunatic, intent on conquering the whole of Europe, yet the French revere him as their greatest man ever. And now I feel I know, thanks to BBC TV!

  6. Your history lessons are just so fascinating. History portrays Napoleon as someone totally different then what you wrote about here. That makes one wonder how much “truth” is in history books. Great post, John. Thank you! ☺️

    • Thank you, Amy. I just think that history books are very often more biased than we think. There is a saying that “History is written by the victors” and that may be true more of the time than we imagine.

  7. Chris Waller

    A revelation indeed. Not the Napoleon as presented by establishment British history.

    • It certainly is an explanation, though, as to why he was so revered in France. Both the book and the TV programme by Andrew Roberts are worth looking at if you have the time. What I have found out about slavery is equally surprising. I am beginning to think that we are just fed what the establishment wants us to know.

  8. Thank you so much, it was good to know so much about Napoleon. Regards, Lakshmi

    • And thank you, Lakshmi, for your kind words. And thank you too, for introducing me to “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying”by Sogyal Rinpoche. I have recently bought it, and now all I need to do is to read it. That’s always the difficult thing with books!

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