The coup d'état of 18 Brumaire was the overthrow of the French revolutionary government that took place on November 9, 1799. (Brumaire was the name given to the second month of the French revolutionary calendar; 18 Brumaire was the date that coincided with November 9 on the traditional calendar.) As a result of the coup d'état, French general Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821) emerged as one of three consuls (administrators) who would head the new government.
Events leading up to the coup d'état began while Napoleon was in Egypt and Syria, waging mostly successful military campaigns for France. The French people were becoming increasingly discontented with the Directory, the group of five men who had governed France since 1795. As his army was stranded in the Middle East, Napoleon learned that France might soon be under attack by the Second Coalition (the second of six European alliances that had been formed to resist French domination). Leaving his troops with another commander, Napoleon returned home and was welcomed as a hero. With the help of his brother, Lucien Bonaparte (1775–1840), and the French revolutionary leader Emmanuel-Joseph Siéyes (1748–1836), Napoleon led the 18 Brumaire coup that overthrew the Directory. A consulate (governing body consisting of consuls) was formed with Napoleon as first consul; the other consuls had little influence, acting only as advisers to Napoleon.
The coup marked the end of the French Revolution (1789–99), the movement that overthrew the French monarchy (a government headed by a king or queen). After enduring chaos and violence for ten years, the French people looked to Napoleon as a strong leader who could bring order to the country. They were unaware, however, that the thirty-year-old general was power-hungry and that he would soon transform the government into a dictatorship (absolute rule by one leader). By the time Napoleon declared himself emperor of France on December 2, 1804, he had already begun to wage a series of wars to gain more power in Europe.
Further Information: Lyons, Martyn. Napoleon Bonaparte and the Legacy of the French Revolution. Vol. 1. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994; "Bonaparte." Electric Library. [Online] Available www.encyclopedia.com/articles/01651.html, October 25, 2000; A Recount of the French Revolution. [Online] Available http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~zongli/french.html, October 25, 2000.