To what extent can Napoleon be viewed as a dictator?

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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 Although the term "dictator" was not in vogue at the time, there can be no question that Napoleon was every bit as authoritarian as most dictators. As in the case of dictators, Napoleon made extensive use of propaganda. All but four Paris newspapers were shut down; those that remained were little more than instruments of propaganda. He also maintained a secret police (although that term was not used) operated by one Joseph Fourche. Fourche's force spied on thousands of people, and many were imprisoned without trial for little more than suspicion of being opposed to the regime's practices. The rights of women were sharply abridged: women could no longer contract, own property, or even maintain a bank account in their own names. They were legally dependent upon and subject to the will of their fathers is single, their husbands if married. Freedom of speech and of the press virtually disappeared. His personal style of leadership was marked by stubbornness and a refusal to listen to those who disagreed with him.

As in the case of many dictators, Napoleon accomplished a great deal for France. He made peace with the Catholic Church, instituted the use of the Code Napoleon, established the Bank of France, and instituted an efficient bureaucracy. However, as is the case of many dictators, the price the French people paid for Napoleon's reforms was quite dear.


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