Napoleonic wars and Decline of Napoleon

After Peace of Amiens (1803)

  • Peace of Amiens brought temporary relief to the strained relations between Britain and France. During this period, France imposed high tariffs on British goods. Meanwhile, France captured the Piedmont and Holland which annoyed Britain and later he acquired Louisiana in America from Spain. He even stirred Indian princes against the British power. After this he began invading Britain but combined forces of France and Spain were defeated by the English fleet in Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.
  • On the other hand, Third Coalition was in making, including Britain, Sweden, Austria and Russia. However, Napoleon defeated Austria and Russia at Battle of Austerlitz in 1805.
  • In case of Germany, he replaced the centuries old Holy Roman Empire and its administration with Napoleonic code and centralisation. He simplified map of Germany which led to territorial unification of German regions.
  • Treaty of Tilsit (greatest achievement of Napoleon): After defeating the Czar Alexander I in Battle of Friedland, Treaty of Tilsit was signed where France and Russia agreed that Russia would support France in its economic war with England while France will support Russia in acquiring territories in Sweden and Turkey.
  • After treaty of Tilsit became King of Italy, Protector of German empire, Law maker in Switzerland.
  • By the year of 1811, he reached zenith of his territorial acquisition. In the extreme south-east, Spain had been ‘reduced to a vassal state under the rule of his brother Joseph.
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  • Benefits of Napoleon’s intervention: it led to the territorial integration of Italy and Germany. Imposition of Napoleonic codes helped in the rise of nationalism in the coming decades across Europe. France ideals and institutions found their inroads in monarchical states across Europe. There was abolition of feudalism and serfdom, recognition of equality of all citizens before the law.
  • Continental system of Napoleon: unable to defeat England through naval warfare, Napoleon began weaking the economic power of England. For this he adopted the Continental system or Blockage (Blocus Continental), which is a large scale economic embargo against the British trade (1806-1814). Second objective was to promote industrialisation of France. For this Berlin Decree was issued in 1806 which removed all internal barriers and tariffs. England retaliated by Orders in Council which forbade all trade with ports belonging to France or her allies. Later, Napoleon issued his Milan Decree (1807) by which he declared that any ship of any country which should touch at a British port, was liable to be seized and treated as a prize.
  • Outcome of Continental system: As most European traders were dependent on the British fleet, they were left helpless. Meanwhile, England began exploring new markets in Africa and Asia. Secondly, inflation in European states was high as ever. States across Europe went into the anti-Napoleon sentiments. This was the beginning of the downfall of Napoleon.

Decline of Napoleon

  • He signed a treaty with Spain to divide Portugal and its foreign possessions. He later replaced the King of Spain Charles IV with his brother Joseph. This gave birth to anger among the people of Spain who saw this as blow to their sovereignty. People began asking help from England. England intervene had ousted French forces from Lisbon first gradually moving towards Spain.
  • Peninsular war: it was a series of small conflicts between French forces of Napoleon and Spanish nationalist people. This war gave an impression of new wave of nationalism in Europe and was gradually replicated in Germany as well as in Austria.
  • Russian case: Russia showed least interest in the Continental system of Napoleon which annoyed him. French forces defeated Russia at Bordino and while returning they had to face Siberian winters. This severe weather lost many able soldiers of French forces and killed their motivation.
  • War of Liberation 1813: Prussian nationalism rose to an ultimate height. It was soon joined by Russia, Austria, Sweden and England (Fourth Coalition). Battle of Nations was fought at Leipzig where France was beaten brutally. When peace was offered to Napoleon, he refused. Allied forces entre Paris in 1814 and Napoleon was forced to retire and sent to the island of Elba.

Louis XVIII, brother of late king was restored to the throne of France. But people of France were not happy with this new King. Meanwhile, Napoleon escaped the Elba, his soldiers joined him in France. Louis XVIII fled, Napoleon entered Paris. Other powers united once again against the Napoleon.

Battle of Waterloo 1815: Combined forces of nations defeated small army of Napoleon in this battle. Napoleon was captured and sent to St. Helena where he died after six years.

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