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Napoleon was a ruler of France and a great military leader. He conquered much of Europe in the early 1800 s. He ruled France for 15 years, bringing changes that still affect French life. Napoleon was a man of energy and daring, but his ambition drove him too far and he was eventually defeated. (Golden Book, 82)
Napoleon Buonaparte was born at Ajaccio in Corsica on August 15th, 1769. A few months before Napoleon was born Corsica was taken over by the French and Napoleon was born a French citizen. There is a story that he was born with a great roar, as if announcing to the world that he had arrived to take it over. (Masters 9) While Napoleon was young he a weird ability to get what he wanted. When his class split up into two teams, the Romans and Carthaginians, Napoleon refused to be a Carthaginian because he knew that they were to loose. (Connelly, 38)
At the age of ten Napoleon was sent to Royal Military School at Brienne at Champagne in the northern part of France. Napoleon had monks as teachers at this school. The conditions for living were very strict so that Poverty and Misery made a Soldier . There he was nicknamed Little Corporal because he was short. (Connelly ,45)
When the French Revolution broke out Napoleon played no active role. He merely watched from afar. He was present when a mob invaded Paris he expressed his disapproval and said that if he was king such things wouldn t be tolerated. (Masters, 25)
In 1793 France was at war with Prussia, Austria, Britain, and Holland. France was in great need of officers for the army. At the age of 24 Napoleon, as Captain-Commandant under General Carteaux, was dispatched to southern France. Lyons, Marseilles, and Avignon were in revolt against the revolutionary government in Paris. Napoleon was responsible for organizing an attack on Toulon, which caused the British to evacuate from there. Napoleon didn t get much recondition for the battle, because Paul-Franqois, the politition that sent the report of the situation, received most of the glory. Franqois proved to be a useful ally in later years. Napoleon soon found himself in an elegant society. (Masters, 34)
Napoleon was allowed a to freely go on an expedition. He decided to go to Egypt there he fought the Mamalukes and won decisively. While Napoleon was gone the war in Italy flared up again. While Napoleon was gone there were many problems with the Directory. He had to leave Egypt and come back. He knew that this would be a good time to take over the Directory for himself and his colleagues. On November 9th and 10th 1799 Napoleon and his brother Lucien took over the Directory. ( Henderson, 11)
In the next few years Napoleon totally changed the way French people were living. He changed government, laws, and totally reorganized the educational system for boys (he thought that girls were just to get married). In 1804, a group of men who wanted to return a Bourbon king to government, plotted to take over, which may have well included a plan to assassinate Napoleon. Betrayed by an informer, the ringleaders were arrested. (Masters, 25) Napoleon captured Duc d Enghein, who was absolutely innocent, had him arrested and was executed less than an hour after his trial. Napoleon knew that he had to be innocent but he needed to make an example out of someone. There were no more tries at napoleons life after that. (Masters, 26)
Napoleon saw himself as an instrument of fate, destined to make a particular mark on the world. In 1804,Napoleon was made Emperor of France. He wanted to re-establish the royal court. This did not go over well with most of the French people. They over threw the king so that a new king could take his place. (Connelly,45) Napoleon wanted a huge ceremony for his crowning. It was to be held at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Many houses were destroyed around the Cathedral for the ceremony. The pope traditionally crowned the king but Napoleon invited him and he was to watch Napoleon crown himself.
After being crowned Emperor Napoleon wanted to increase the size of his empire. The French Navy was massacred by the British navy and was a huge loss to Napoleon. So instead of using the Navy, Napoleon marched his men to Prussia where he defeated them at Jena. He went on to Russia where there were many bloody battles. There Napoleon met with the Russian Czar, Alexander I to discuss the treaty of Tilsit. There Alexander and Napoleon were intrigued by each other and became friends in which Napoleon convinced Alexander to get Britain to be peaceful with France. (Masters, 45)
At one point in Napoleon s career as emperor the pope excommunicated him. Napoleon then imprisoned the pope. Just after that he occupied Vienna. Napoleon then went on a campaign to take over Russia entirely. He went so far into Russia that when he tried to get out he lost 500,00 men to the winter. That was the falling point of Napoleon s career. When he got back to Paris he was exiled to Elba. Then he was later exiled to St. Helena where he died in 1821.
Napoleon s career was brilliant, and his personality formidable. He was the greatest European statesman of his time, with a powerful vision of order and rationalization in society and the world. He was a great general and a great hero, but he was a hero flawed by arrogance, contempt for human life, and, most of all, by an insatiable greed for power. The Revolution had led only to Napoleon s imperial rule. After a slaughter of a king and millions of his subjects, another king, Louis XVIII, was back on the throne. As Marshal Foch, a great commander in World War I, wrote on the century of Napoleon s death: He forgot that man cannot be God; that, above man, there is moral law; and that war is not the highest goal, since above War is Peace. (Masters, 66)
Owen Connelly, Blundering to Glory. Wilmington: Scholarly Resources Inc. 1987
Anthony Masters, Napoleon. New York: Mcgraw-Hill 1981
Harry Henderson, The Age of Napoleon. San Diego: Lucent Books 1999
Golden Book Encyclopedia Vol. 12 P.83-84
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