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Napoleon I
Emperor of the French
1769 - 1821
Ambition is never content,
    even on the summit of greatness.
                                                                  —Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769 in Ajaccio on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Through his military exploits and his ruthless efficiency, Napoleon rose from obscurity to become Napoleon I, Empereur des Francais (Emperor of the French). He is both a historical figure and a legend—and it is sometimes difficult to separate the two. The events of his life fired the imaginations of great writers, film makers, and playwrights whose works have done much to create the Napoleonic legend.
Napoleon decided on a military career when he was a child, winning a scholarship to a French military academy. His meteoric rise shocked not only France but all of Europe, and his military conquests threatened the stability of the world.
Napoleon was one of the greatest military commanders in history. He has also been portrayed as a power hungry conqueror. Napoleon denied being such a conqueror. He argued that he was building a federation of free peoples in a Europe united under a liberal government. But if this was his goal, he intended to achieve it by taking power in his own hands. However, in the states he created, Napoleon granted constitutions, introduced law codes, abolished feudalism, created efficient governments and fostered education, science, literature and the arts.
Emperor Napoleon proved to be an excellent civil administrator. One of his greatest achievements was his supervision of the revision and collection of French law into codes. The new law codes—seven in number—incorporated some of the freedoms gained by the people of France during the French revolution, including religious toleration and the abolition of serfdom. The most famous of the codes, the Code Napoleon or Code Civil, still forms the basis of French civil law. Napoleon also centralized France's government by appointing prefects to administer regions called departments, into which France was divided.
While Napoleon believed in government "for" the people, he rejected government "by" the people. His France was a police state with a vast network of secret police and spies. The police shut down plays containing any hint of disagreement or criticism of the government. The press was controlled by the state. It was impossible to express an opinion without Napoleon's approval.

Napoleon's own opinion of his career is best stated in the following quotation:
I closed the gulf of anarchy and brought order out of chaos. I rewarded merit regardless of birth or wealth, wherever I found it. I abolished feudalism and restored equality to all regardless of religion and before the law. I fought the decrepit monarchies of the Old Regime because the alternative was the destruction of all this. I purified the Revolution.
If you are aware of books, movies, databases, web sites or other information sources about Napoleon Bonaparte or related subjects, or if you would like to submit comments please send us email: rc@lucidcafe.com​.
•  Other Monarchs in the Lucidcafé Library
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  Other Monarchs in the Lucidcafé Library

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  Books About Napoleon I
Napoleon Bonaparte - Author: J. M. Thompson, Norman Hampson

A reissue of a thirty year old work that is one of the best researched and written biographies of Napoleon available.

CLICK HERE to purchase this paperback edition of "Napoleon Bonaparte"

Napoleon: A Penguin Life - Author: Paul Johnson

An "unromantic," "skeptical," and "searching" study of a person who exercised power "only for a decade and a half" but whose "impact on the future lasted until nearly the end of the twentieth century."—Library Journal

CLICK HERE to purchase this trade hardcover edition of "Napoleon: A Penguin Life"

Imperial Glory: The Bulletins of Napoleon's Grand Armee - Author: J. David Markham

The bulletins herein, covering the period from 1805 to 1815, describe military operations, pick out distinguished officers and units, and present Napoleon's own interpretation of battles lost or won.

CLICK HERE to purchase this hardcover edition of "Imperial Glory"

The Military Maxims of Napoleon - Editor: William E. Cairnes (1901)

David Chandler updates Cairnes 1901 collection of Napoleon's military maxims.

CLICK HERE to purchase this paperback edition of "The Military Maxims of Napoleon"

Napoleon's Glance: The Secret of Strategy - Editor: William Duggan

Pop business meets military and intellectual history in this intriguing study of strategizing as a habit of being.— Kirkus Reviews

CLICK HERE to purchase this hardcover edition of "Napoleon's Glance"

Josephine: Napoleon's Incomparable Empress - Author: Eleanor P. Delorme

This spirited biography, rich in detail and anecdote, brings to life Napoleon's incomparable Josephine.

CLICK HERE to purchase this hardcover edition of "Josephine"

  Videos About Napoleon I
Napoleon (PBS Empires Series) (2000) - Studio: PBS Home Video

This four-hour historic drama masterfully chronicles Napoleon Bonaparte's life--from a relatively humble farmhouse in Corsica to his days as a soldier, statesman, and overzealous emperor.

CLICK HERE to purchase this Video edition of "Napoleon PBS Series"

Biography - Napoleon Bonaparte: The Glory of France (2000) - Studio: A & E Entertainment

Making copious use of contemporary drawings, paintings, and maps, and featuring interviews with military historians who specialize in Napoleon, the great commander is thoughtfully rendered in this A&E Biography.

CLICK HERE to purchase this Video edition of "Napoleon Bonaparte: The Glory of France"

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Copyright © 1995-2007 Robin Chew
Article written by Robin Chew - August 1995