Did Napoleon preserve the French Revolution or did he destroy it?

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This is one of the great questions on the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era and a subject of considerable debate (and you can probably make a case for either side of it).

Of course, it should also be noted that the French Revolution was itself extremely tumultuous. When speaking of the principles of the Revolution, it might be worth asking: which Revolution? After all, the Revolution was a continuously evolving drama: the Revolution of 1789 was radically different than the Revolution of the Terror, which itself was followed by the Thermidoreans. The French Revolution itself tends to be very, very complicated. It defies easy classification.

I'd suggest the same can be said of Napoleon. On the one hand, he represented the restoration of autocracy and class distinction (and this included the return of noble titles), and yet, this Napoleonic nobility was different in certain key respects than the nobility of the Old Regime. As historian John Merriman points out:

Between 1808 and 1814,...

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 10, 2019