France History: Revolution and Napoleonic Era (1789-1815)

The French Revolution (1789-99) showed the weakness of absolutist rule in France and within a few years put the state (establishment of the First Republic in 1792) and society on new foundations (representation of the nation by the National Assembly, annulment of all feudal rights and privileges, declaration of the Human and civil rights with freedom and equality for all before the law, constitution of 1791).

However, tens of thousands were executed during the reign of terror under M. de Robespierre and even more people fell victim to the civil wars (especially in the Vendée). Almost the entire European state system was shaken by the French Revolutionary Wars (against the first and second European coalitions) and the subsequent Napoleonic Wars. At the same time, the ideas of 1789 spread across Europe. In the dynamics of the revolution, however, the realization of its achievements threatened to fail. With the coup d’état of 18th Brumaire VIII (November 9th, 1799), the overthrow of the Directory, Napoléon tried Bonaparte to secure the revolutionary gains of France. At the same time he established a military dictatorship. Check to see more about France and other countries in the world.

Bonaparte, first consul by the consular constitution of December 13, 1799, created a fundamentally new order of French state life based on the legacy of the revolution and the administrative traditions of the ancien régime (codification of French law in the Code Napoléon, Code) and restored peace in the church through the Concordat of 1801 concluded with Pope Pius VII. He successfully ended the war against the second European coalition (Peace of Lunéville 1801 and Amiens 1802). The French Rhine border and the predominance of France in Italy were recognized; on the territorial reorganization of Germany in the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss In 1803 France exercised the decisive influence. In 1799 Piedmont was incorporated, while overseas western Louisiana, which Spain had repurchased in 1800, had to be sold to the USA in 1803. In 1804, Haiti fought for independence in a successful revolution of the slaves brought to the island for the plantation economy under the leadership of Toussaint Louverture and defeated, among other things, an army created by Bonaparte.

Based on referendums, Bonaparte was consul for life from 1802, hereditary Emperor of the French from 1804 as Napoleon I (self-coronation in the presence of Pius VII in Paris, December 2, 1804) and from 1805 King of Italy. The tightly centralized administration, general conscription, the formation of an independent peasant class supported by the sale of the goods of the church and emigrants (an agrarian revolution failed to materialize), the bourgeois social order – all results of the revolution – characterized the new empire.

Tensions with Great Britain culminated in new wars in 1805, in which, in addition to actual conflicts of interest, Napoleon’s excessive will to power and the urge to expand also had an impact. In the wars against the third and fourth coalitions (until 1806/07), after the defeats of Austria and Prussia and the end of the Holy Roman Empire, he attempted to integrate Central Europe into the French state system (2nd Rhine Confederation) with the continental blockade in 1806 as a declaration of war against Great Britain and the partnership of the Russian Tsar Alexander I. the height of his power. In the conquered areas, his rule carried out far-reaching reforms that ended the ancien régime in Europe and established a new European order. In the following wars against Spain and Portugal (1807/08), against Austria (1809) and with the occupation and annexation of the Papal States (1808/09), however, Napoleonic foreign rule encountered resistance from peoples and states, with the Spanish War of Independence (since 1808) had a European signal effect. Until 1812, Napoleon I. continued its imperial European integration and hegemonic policy, among other things. through the establishment of a dynasty legitimizing his monarchical rule. The economic crisis that struck France in 1810-12 as a result of sluggish sales and the burden of the continental blockade as well as the oppressive indirect taxes caused the big bourgeoisie to turn their backs on Napoleonic politics and the Catholic-royalist opposition to grow until 1812. The turning point was the catastrophic Russian campaign of 1812 for the “Great Army”. The uprising of Prussia led to the outbreak of the Wars of Liberation in 1813; the annexation of Austria completed the last and largest coalition against France, which succumbed to this superiority (Battle of the Nations near Leipzig, October 16-19, 1813). The campaign of 1814 ended with the surrender of Paris (March 30), followed by the fall of Napoleon (April 2, deposition, April 7, abdication) and the restoration of the Bourbon kingship under Louis XVIII. (1814 / 15-24).

The 1st Peace of Paris (May 30, 1814) left France the borders of 1792. Napoleon’s attempt to regain power from Elba led to the rule of the “Hundred Days”, which came to an end with the battle of Waterloo; This was followed by the emperor’s renewed abdication (June 22nd, 1815) and his exile to Saint Helena. Louis XVIII returned to Paris. In the 2nd Peace of Paris (November 20, 1815) France had to cede Saarlouis, Saarbrücken and Landau and be content with the borders of 1790.

France History - Revolution and Napoleonic Era