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How can you explain the rise of Napoleon?

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Phillip Holland eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Napoleon's rise to power can be explained through his military exploits. Napoleon defeated the Austrian army in a series of battles in Italy, ending in the treaty of Campo Formio and gaining France large amounts of territory and prestige. Napoleon also defeated the British army in Egypt at the Battle of the Pyramids. In 1799, he was part of a group that overthrew the French Directory. Napoleon's status as a commoner and war hero made him popular with the French masses.  

Another aspect that made Napoleon popular was his ability to stabilize the French government; this had not been done since the fall of the king in 1789. Napoleonic reforms included banking and education reforms. The government also improved relations with the Catholic church. Napoleon consolidated his power by naming himself consul for life and then embarked on campaigns with other European nations. By restoring military prestige to France, Napoleon made himself a popular figure that the people could embrace as a symbol of nationalism.

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danielle1978 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Several factors led to Napoleon’s rise to power. First, Napoleon’s success directly correlates to the French Revolution because such a political climate enabled Napoleon, despite his modest upbringing, to become an Emperor. While in years prior only the elite could participate in the government, the French Revolution challenged long-held ideals which favored the aristocracy's sole involvement in politics and matters of the state. Accordingly, someone like Napoleon was actually allowed (and encouraged) to enter the political arena. At the same time, Napoleon was a gifted military strategist, and after his initial rise to power, he demonstrated his talents in various military campaigns in Italy and Egypt. In 1799, Napoleon and his supporters overthrew the Directory Government of France, thus officially marking Napoleon’s reign. Napoleon was also married to Josephine, whose well-connected Father was a member of the Directory Government. This relationship allowed Napoleon access to the inner workings of the state, while also contributing to Napoleon’s popularity with the masses. In short, the unstable political landscape in France, Napoleon’s ambitious nature, and political/personal affiliations all paved the way for his popularity and subsequent reign.

 

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