Napoleon Bonaparte: Crash Course European History #22

Hi I’m John Green and this is Crash Course
European History. So, the word revolution is a funny one, because
it literally means a full turn of 360 degrees. Like, you end a revolution where you started
out. But in history, revolution means radical change,
stark departures from the world that was, and the messy, often violent embrace of a
new world. The French Revolution was in different ways
both kinds of Revolution–in the end, an absolutist government was replaced by an absolutist government. But the change that emerged from the Revolution
was real and lasting. It helped usher in a world where people saw
themselves as citizens of a community rather than subjects of a king. And eventually, a rising military star named
Napoleon Bonaparte would prove that having your dad be king of France was not the only
way to become ruler of France. [Intro]
Napoleon grew up poor in Corsica, but he loved reading and managed to secure a scholarship
to a military academy. As a kid, he spoke Corsican and Italian and
didn’t start learning French until he was ten. And he was bullied for his accented French
and for his overall tininess–although despite what you may have heard about Napoleon Complexes,
Bonaparte would eventually end up being around five feet seven inches tall, about average
for an 18th century man. He entered the army as a second lieutenant
in 1785 and began to rise through the ranks throughout the tumultuous years of the French
Revolution. By the time he was 24, in 1793, he was a brigadier
general working under the Committee for Public Safety, which as you’ll recall killed a
lot of the public in the name of public safety. And then in 1798, Napoleon crossed into Egypt
with an entire army at his command, aiming to disrupt Britain’s access to India. In addition to lots of soldiers, Napoleon
brought with him scientists, linguists, and other scholars to advance knowledge and also
carry off more Egyptian riches. The Egyptians were impressed by the openness
of these scholars, but in general the French completely appalled the local people with
their crude ways and drunkenness. And even as Napoleon flattered the Egyptians
by declaring himself a worshiper of Islam, he ultimately stole and desecrated many Egyptian
artefacts–although later he also stole and desecrated lots of artefacts from around Europe. He loved a plundered artefact! At any rate, Napoleon ultimately had to return
to France in 1799, as his army and navy were defeated by the British and the Egyptians. And that timing turned out to be perfect:
The Directory, which you’ll recall, was a five-person committee governing France after
the collapse of Robespierre’s Committee for Public Safety, was overseeing a still-floundering
economy and fighting wars on many fronts. Napoleon helped overthrow the directorate
in 1799, and quickly became “First Consul,” and then took as his first task mending fences
with the Catholic Church. He agreed to the Concordat of 1801, which
recognized Catholicism as the primary French religion. It also validated the sale of Church lands
and the state’s payment of clergymen’s salaries if they swore to uphold the French
government. And that was important because it ensured
him the support one of France’s most important institutions, and you’ll recall our discussions
about how even dictators need support from within their holdings. But it’s also telling that Napoleon would
eventually be excommunicated by the Catholic Church for annexing Papal lands for France. Napoleon was also popular with the people:
He offered a solution to decades of instability and economic decline. He won majorities when he had his candidacy
for office and other decisions approved by a plebiscite or vote, cast by men over the
age of 21. In 1802 he had himself declared Consul for
Life and in 1804 Emperor. Did the center of the world just open up? Is there a bust of somebody who actually believes
himself to be the center of the world in there? It is! It’s Napoleon himself. Stan got this in Paris. I can tell, because it says, “Souvenier
de Paris.” So this bust of Napoleon complete with its
armlessness and being cut off at the torso and everything is extremely Roman-ish. And this was part of how Napoleon justified
his dictatorial form of government. He said “no, we’re just going back to
the Roman Empire…to the good old days of ancient Rome.” And dictators do this a lot. From the Russian word Tsar, which comes from
the word Caesar, to 20th century dictators, when your leaders start talking about reviving
the glory of the Roman Empire, get nervous. Oh look, its half-French, half-Roman Napoleon. So, during the French Revolution, leaders
promoted the ancient Roman idea of virtu—that is, the sacrifice of personal interest for
the good of the republic, the whole. Napoleon continued all that Roman imagery
but switched it from the Roman Republic to the Roman Empire. you can even see this in his journey from
being a Consul to being an Emperor. He was portrayed in lavish costume and crowned
with the laurel leaves of a conquering hero. “Empire” style in furniture arose and
women donned slim white dresses, free from corsets and voluminous petticoats, in imitation
of Roman statuary. And Napoleon saw himself as a modern Justinian–the
famed ancient lawgiver. So to that end, he set out to have the most
celebrated jurists under his guidance produce a rational code of laws. Completed in 1804, the Code Napoléon (aka
the Napoleonic Code) standardized the laws of citizenship, family, and property. The Code made rules for financial transfers
and mortgages and for other legal transactions concerning property standards across France
instead of differing from province to province. And legal standardization facilitated modern
economic development. But the other two sections on family and citizenship
stunned many for the way they impoverished and curtailed most of the rights of women. Under the Napoleonic Code, women had no right
to their own property once they were married–not even the wages they earned themselves. They could not serve as witnesses in court
nor have control over or guardianship of their own children. They had to live where their husband directed
them to live. If they committed adultery, they were sent
to jail. But men, in contrast, would only be charged
with a crime if they brought a sexual partner into the family home. I’m not making this up. Lest you think that history is simply a march
toward more people having more rights….not always. But by creating laws that specifically targeted
the economy, the empire was seen as paving the way for modernization. And other institutions followed: individual
schools were founded for higher education in engineering, science and technology, and
for developing a cadre of advanced teachers. Napoleon also sponsored the creation of lycées,
or high schools. Countries in Europe and across the globe imitated
the French legal and educational systems as they too strove to become modern as well. This may not seem like a huge deal, but consider
how different the world becomes as more people have access to more education:
There are more potential innovators to solve big problems, and more people who can use
the tool of writing to share their perspectives with wide audiences, and more teachers to
train and educate future generations of professionals and experts. On the other hand, it’s worth remembering
that half of the population–women–were denied not just most of the new opportunities in
France but also many of the rights they’d previously had. So, Napoleon initially succeeded in France
because he quelled the political chaos by making himself an emblem of authority and
order. Right out of the dictator playbook. He also created a police state with strict
censorship and spies operating in everyday life. And he restored the monarchical system of
aristocratic titles and hierarchies, even giving back titles to some of the old aristocracy
who could help revive the appearance of ceremonial grandeur. And so in all those ways, Napoleon was returning
to Louis XIV’s absolutism, so the revolution did turn all the way around, ending where
it started, in that sense. While members of Napoleon’s family often
became wealthy and titled, his enemies were frequently exiled from France. The most famous of his exiled enemies was
Germaine de Staël, the wealthiest woman in Europe and one of the most accomplished. De Staël never stopped criticizing the dictator,
although at first she found him fascinating and even thought she might become his companion.Early
on, she probed him for an expression of admiration of her talents by asking what kind of woman
he valued most. He responded, “the one with the most children”
and pointedly gazed at her chest. After that, she denounced his brutal nature
to whoever would listen, rallying opponents around her. But Napoleon had as many plans for Europe
as he had for France and he set out to conquer and colonize all of Europe and the British
Isles. He amassed a huge army by drafting young men
between the ages of 20 and 24, then he earned their complete devotion by fighting alongside
them in at least sixty battles. As he conquered German and Austrian territory,
he brought men from those areas into his armies too. And by 1806, he had ended the Holy Roman Empire
after defeating Austria in several battles, most thoroughly at the battle of Austerlitz
in 1805. Then he went on to defeat Prussia in 1806
and Russia in 1807 after they declared war on France in succession. Napoleon then forced or inspired reforms such
as the end of serfdom, legislating religious toleration, and creating schools to advance
scientific and technological study. And he unified German states excluding Austria
in the Confederation of the Rhine. His imposition of the Napoleonic Code, the
metric system, and other institutions for standardization helped to unify Europe. What is the metric system?
Stan says it’s something that Europeans do, like soccer and ensuring that all citizens
have health care. One of the big effects of Napoleon’s European
ambitions was that it inspired a lot of nationalism among his new subjects, who mostly opposed
his dictatorial regimes, in places where one of his brothers usually. I mean, for one thing, most of these newly
conquered lands were run by one of Napoleon’s brothers, who’d serve as surrogate monarch,
and if you’re gonna live in a dictatorship, you wanna at least be dictated by the dictator
himself. Not some brother. It’s like going to see the matinee of a
big Broadway show, and instead of getting the big star, you get some understudy.
at any rate, this is important because people began to think of themselves as, for instance,
German in part because they didn’t want to think of themselves as French. Napoleon’s goal was to colonize the entire
continent, and he mostly succeeded, but Spain was still unconquered and thwarting his Continental
system when in 1807 Napoleon struck with an army of some 100,000 men. Spanish and Portuguese royals both left their
capitals. Napoleon installed yet another brother (Joseph)
as king and resistance swelled—with help from the British and Arthur Wellesley, who
would later become the Duke of Wellington. And you can see the effects in art. Jacques-Louis David painted triumphant moments
in Napoleon’s career, including his self-coronation as emperor. But Spanish painter Francisco Goya depicted
Napoleonic rule as a reign of terror. His “Third of May 1808” shows a French
firing squad mowing down peasants and clergy alike. Goya remained a chronicler of Spanish resistance
and French barbarism, as tens of thousands of French troops had to occupy the conquered
kingdom because of Spanish hatred of the conquerors. Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. 1. Despite ongoing problems, Napoleon became
determined to conquer and absorb all of Russia, 2. especially since it had opted out of his Continental
System. 3. He built an army of some 600,000 to 700,000
men from across his lands 4. and began his invasion in June of 1812. 5. Having trudged hundreds of miles, troops were
exhausted and overcome by the heat, 6. and the Rusians refused to engage in battle. 7. Instead, they retreated, practicing so-called
“scorched earth tactics” by burning and destroying any resource 8. including food and livestock that could be
of use to the invaders. 9. Finally at Borodino, the two sides engaged
in what was ultimately a costly victory for the French, 10. who lost 30,000 men, while the Russians
lost 45,000. 11. But the French were thousands of miles from
home territory, and so reinforcing and resupplying their army proved difficult. 12. Foreign recruits, who were not as loyal to
Napoleon, began melting away as winter approached and conditions worsened. 13. The remaining 100,000ish invaders marched
on from Borodino, some 70 miles from Moscow, 14. but on reaching their destination, they found
the city consumed by fire 15. —shelter and other necessities were once
again in short supply. 16. Still Napoleon waited for Tsar Alexander I
to surrender and agree to terms. 17. But when the surrender failed to materialize, 18. Napoleon led his depleted, starving, and frostbitten
army westward to Poland. 19. Many had died; many other soldiers had deserted,
and more French troops would be killed by the Cossacks as they retreated. 20. Only 40,000 of Napoleon’s soldiers reached
Poland alive in 1813. Thanks Thought Bubble. So, the European powers took note of the Emperor’s
bedraggled forces and formed a coalition that included Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Sweden. In 1813, their armies, backed by British financing,
defeated French forces at Leipzig. This battle was waged because Napoleon refused
to accept the allies’ terms, which initially allowed him to continue to rule France. In early 1814 he abdicated and headed for
exile on Elba, an island in the Mediterranean. A year later, he escaped, returned to France,
gathered an army, and confronted the powers once more, finally surrendering on July 15,
1815 after being defeated at Waterloo. Napoleon was living in exile on the distant
island of St. Helena when he died on May 5, 1821–thirty two years to the day after the
meeting of the Estates-General that set the French Revolution into motion. Consider all that had happened in those 32
years, and you’ll understand why this period of French history is seen as so important
to world history. Decades after his death, Napoleon’s remains
were lavishly returned to France, placed in the Church of the Dome in the heart of Paris,
and eventually re-encased in a grander sarcophagus under the church’s golden dome itself. Why? Remember that under him, French achievements
were massive in terms of education, commitment to science, standardization, modernization
of the economy and administration, and opening the door to opportunity for ordinary people. Well, ordinary men. French museums were packed with loot from
across Europe and Egypt plundered by Napoleon’s armies. In fact, those museums are still packed with
that loot. And there were also the unforgettable early
military victories and the revival of French cultural glory that led to the imitation of
French things throughout the world. Muhammad Ali, ruler of Egypt, who had been
part of the effort to drive Napoleon and his forces from the country, would begin programs
in direct imitation of Napoleon’s. And t he creation of a truly citizens army,
entranced by the heroism of its leader, also endured, while his lightning attacks remained
a model to future military innovators. The Napoleonic Code was imitated worldwide. As Napoleon’s body was re-entombed in splendor
and pomp, one worker expressed France’s general worship of the dictator: “I’ve
got the emperor in my guts.” For better and for worse, we still have Napoleon
in our guts. Thanks for watching. I’ll see you next time.

100 thoughts on “Napoleon Bonaparte: Crash Course European History #22”

  1. I think the issue was that one of the lines during the episode was randomly quieter than the rest. Probably why it was reuploaded

  2. Now to restate that Napoleon died in exile along with his wife. Interesting how one France’s last rulers died and then had a high honor return

  3. Crash course: makes a point to criticize great man history as inherently reductionist
    Also crash course: makes a whole video on just Napoleon

  4. desecrate


    Learn to pronounce


    verb: desecrate; 3rd person present: desecrates; past tense: desecrated; past participle: desecrated; gerund or present participle: desecrating

    treat (a sacred place or thing) with violent disrespect.

    "more than 300 graves were desecrated"




    treat sacrilegiously

    treat with disrespect









    blaspheme against








    spoil (something which is valued or respected).

    "many lanes are desecrated with yellow lines"


    late 17th century: from de- (expressing reversal) + a shortened form of consecrate.

    Translate desecrate to


    1. 冒す

    Use over time for: d

  5. Read Mme de Stael guys… Probably one of the most brillant mind of her time, theorician of romanticism before everyone really understood what it was, incredible intellectual and actual good writer. Really she is unbelievable.

  6. The French Revolution, in terms of ending up where it started, isn’t exactly a modern phenomenon.

    Look at the history of the Soviet Union, and you’ll see the same pattern.

  7. It's very reassuring to me that despite Napoleon's height, John Green will always be John Green. Remember that I love you!

  8. I always kinda liked napoleon… he seem like someone who actually wanted to make his country better, and wasn't in it purely for power

  9. To say Napoleon "wanted" to conquer Europe is a bit much. Other countries declared war on HIM. Then he beat them. Over and over. Vienna was captured TWICE, sometimes less than a year after it declared war on the French Empire.

  10. Fun fact, my country the Dominican Republic still uses the Napoleonic code as the bases of its legal system.
    YEP its 200 years old and it sucks

  11. The Napoleonic invasion of Spain gave English the word "guerrilla" war. It described the Spanish resistance fighters who hide in the rural areas and attacked the invaders in small raids. Guerrilla is Spanish for "Little War".

  12. The moment he brought up Egypt, my eyes narrowed. I’ll never forgive Napoleon for destroying the Great Sphinx’s nose. Yes, I’m aware that it’s only a legend, but there’s nobody else I can blame it on!

  13. Ah! and I almost forgot, Joseph I was known as Pepe Botellas in Spanish which roughly translates into Joe Bottle due to the fact that the guy loved his liquor more than his crown

  14. Mr. Green would look smashing dressed up as a Napoleon.

    Using his right hand scratching chest and picking bellybutton lint.
    (Napoleon was most likely slowly poisoned by British using arsenic.)

  15. In Russia, invaders are defeated by the weather.
    Didn't the Nazi's have similar problems when trying to invade Russia?

  16. The metric system is something the rest of the world uses to measure, it'd be nice if Americans stopped using the Imperial system, it's very confusing. Nationalised health care is great too! 😀

  17. Well actually, Napoleon invaded Russia not because he wanted to conquer her, but make her to join to the continental blockade of England.

  18. To add to the idea about how artists included Napoleon in their work, Beethoven’s 3rd Symphony, Sinfonia Eroica (Heroic Symphony), was originally titled Sinfonia Buonaparte. Beethoven was enamored with Napoleon’s anti-monarchical ideals and believed strongly in the idea of democracy. However, when Napoleon named himself Emperor, Beethoven revoked the dedication, ripping the title page of his score in half, and then he retitled it to Eroica. Another copy of the original title page has two subtitles, “intitolata Bonaparte” (“Titled Bonaparte”), and “Greschriben auf Bonaparte” (“Written for Bonaparte”), scratched out.

  19. 13:17
    Napoleon could have easily won Leipzig. He almost turned it into an Austerlitz scale victory. The French Cavalry were in pursuit of Prussian and Russian outriders. They chose not to pursue. It was later revealed that this group contained Tsar Nicholas I and Prussian King Frederick Wilhelm III along with some of their top army command. Had the French captured this group, the battle would have been a massive decisive victory. Napoleon would have won with the Coalition forces in complete disarray with such a decapitating move. Napoleon can now negotiate from a position of strength here. With both monarchs as his prisoners, his Empire is secure with Prussia and Russia forced to make peace with the French. It’s likely that Poland revolts and the Grand duchy of Warsaw is reinstated. With a withdrawal from Spain Napoleon can now consolidate enough troops to defend what he has.

    The Austrians would be desperate to make peace as with Russia and Prussia beaten and humbled, Napoleon’s wrath is directed at them for their betrayal. Tsar Nicholas’s rule is likely destabilized as a result of his loss of prestige resulting in something of an earlier Decembrist revolt.

    Italy and Germany are firmly within France’s orbit and Britain would be forced to make peace. The public was already weary of war and a victorious Napoleon would only re-affirm his image as an unbeatable general. Napoleon without being poisoned of arsenic, would likely live into the 1830’s.

    Napoleon II would be crowned as King of Italy, Emperor of the French, and Protector of the Confederation of the Rhine. Based on what we know of him from otl, he was quite intelligent and charming and had a desire to go into the army. With a living Napoleon, his son is likely trained by him to keep the army together. France likely recovers pretty quickly here and industrialized rapidly. The French army is still intact here and industrialization is more rapid thanks to France controlling the resources (coal and iron ore) of the Rhineland, the riches of Italy. Napoleonic France doesn’t experience a demographic collapse since it industrializes on schedule and there is no Franco Prussian War.

  20. Yeh the Levee en Masse wasn't a Napoleonic invention it started way back under the Jacobins, it’s implementation was what turned resentment at the Revolutions attack on the church into an armed uprising.

  21. I think saying that Napoleon wanted to "colonize" Europe is a bit much. It's not like he encouraged French settlers to take over Germany. Safeguard France and the revolution? Sure. Reorganize Europe under French dominance with the principles of the revolution spread everywhere? Absolutely. It's also worth remembering that Napoleon didn't start most of the coalition wars. The European monarchies were determined to quell revolutionary France and as soon as they'd caught their breath, they attacked again. Except Britain, which was continuously at war with France throughout the revolutionary period.

  22. Tzar is not a russian word, Bulgaria used to have tzars way before Russia. Actually, Bulgaria is the first empire, not to have an emperor, but a tzar

  23. You could have been more neutral… but so is human, always influenced by it's own culture…
    You did your revolution too… from trying to share knowledge to stereotype nations… great work!

  24. Scorched earth, classic tactic of steppe hordes. When land isn't your and you merely occupy it why wouldn't you destroy it just to cause problems to someone else?
    Anyone familiar with the US civil war, did any of the sides attempted something similar?

  25. I, for one, absolutely hate Napoléon. Sure he made some progress and was an impressive figure, but he was also a bloodthirsty dictator who imagined himself a god. A lot of the progress he made was not his, but the spirit of the time. France, at the time, was home to a whole myriad of brilliant thinkers – philosophers, scientists, jurists – who really had the same innovative ideas but not the will to bend the world to his whims.
    If anything, I feel like he ruined perfect opportunities to further advance the Enlightenment, instead sacrificing it on the altar of his narcissism. The lesson here being, amongst others, learn when to stop.

  26. Corsets did not exist before the Victorian era and their predecessors, stays, were definetly worn during Napoleon's time.

  27. Yeah, if Bismarck had occupied France for a couple decades we could have avoided a lot of needless death. Can you blame Napoleon?

  28. Oppressors hold up the false narrative that things were always worse for marginalized groups to dismiss their complaints about the present. And they insist things can never backslide to make them complacent about the future.

    i.e. Shut up, you should be grateful for how well you are treated now and things will never be that bad again so what are you fighting for? women can vote, slavery ended a hundred years ago blah blah blah

    This is why the lesson that people can lose rights over the course of history, as well as gain them, is essential.

  29. 4:20 Interestingly, the German word for emperor is also stemming fom Caesar: "Kaiser". Of course that makes sense as well, considering the Holy Roman Empire understood itself as the continuation of the OG Roman Empire.

  30. Napoleon loose in Russia becouse he ignored enemy capitol (ST.Petersburg)and later was to late.Later Napoleon give order to French press write than Winter defeats me ,i loose and everyone will loose not becouse my mistakes or something and to this day lot of historians mindlessly reapeat this winter bulshit.

  31. I don´t understand why you say that Spain was thwarting his Continental System. The Spanish were more than happy to be part of it! Only Portugal opposed this (due to the Windsor Treaty, the oldest Military Alliance still active) and Spain was invaded because Napoleon wanted to conquer Portugal. The Portuguese Royal Family did flee to Brazil but the Spanish one was captured and forced to abdicate on his brother Josef. Because of this, Portugal was able to secure his colonies and Spain lost many of theirs to the British and France.

  32. 'People started to think of themselves as German, in part because they did not want to think of themselves as french'

    I think that you could have replaced this entire video series with just this single line…

  33. I really enjoy your presentations. I've got a request for a course. My belief is that our government has never (and never will) truly represented the people who live in this country. In fact, it was set up not to represent the majority of us. It has always represented political parties and influencers. How can we get a government that represents us, the people? What form of government would that be and how would it work?

  34. Obviously Napoléon never played Risk =P

    Hadn't Persia already established similar school systems with standardized education and even a lot of it public/free?

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