Was Napoleon Bonaparte a great leader? was he a hero or a tyrant? I frequently get asked questions that boil under to “was Napoleon great or bad?” that is not basic question come answer. Like most of us, he to be neither entirely good, nor totally bad. Reasonable world can disagree about how napoleon’s life and legacy have to be regarded. The answer depends on what girlfriend value, and by what requirements you are judging him. Listed below is a brief summary of arguments usually make in favour of, and against, Napoleon.

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Napoleon crossing the Alps, by Jacques-Louis David

Napoleon the good

Napoleon was great general.

Napoleon was superb military command (see, for example, “Napoleon was the best General Ever, and also the math Proves it”). He battled over 70 battles, and also was beat in just eight. He transformed the means in i m sorry the French military operated and also turned France right into the biggest military power in Europe. His confidence and also ambition inspired his troops, and also their victories lugged glory to France.

Napoleon saved France from the chaos that the French Revolution.

Napoleon brought stable government to France after years of violent political turmoil resulting from the French change of 1789. The granted amnesty to many émigrés (royalists who had actually fled the country after the Revolution), and also admitted a variety of talented émigrés to government service.

Napoleon established the Napoleonic Code.

Under napoleon’s guidance, a commission of jurists perfect drafting a human body of clearly written civil legislations to change the patchwork that customary feudal and spiritual laws that existed in France (the initiative to come up through a rational, uniform set of legislations actually started prior to Napoleon concerned power). The code recognized the principles of polite liberty, the equality that men before the law, and also the secular nature that the state. The Napoleonic Code influenced the development of legitimate systems about the world. It continues to be the communication of civil law in France, Belgium and also many previous French colonies.

Napoleon introduced beneficial reforms in France.

Napoleon brought a variety of useful advancements to France that survive to this day. He centralized government management and presented the prefecture system. He promoted the adoption of the metric system, developed public roads and also sewers, and instituted a system of state-supported secondary education, with the lycées. He created a stable, solitary currency and also created the bank of France. He presented meritocracy come both the French government and also the French army, in which world were promoted on the basis of their ability, quite than top top the communication of their household background.

Napoleon reconciled the French state and the Catholic Church.

During the French Revolution, the French church was removed from papal authority, church lands and also endowments to be seized by the state, and also most clergy fled the country. In 1801, Napoleon signed a concordat v the Pope. This agreement acknowledged Catholicism together the religious beliefs of the majority of French people. Priests were permitted to go back to their churches and also preside over worship, back the church’s confiscated home was not returned.

Napoleon the bad

Napoleon jeopardized the benefit of the French Revolution.

The French transformation ended monarchical rule in France. Napoleon lugged it back. Instead of returning power to the people, he truncated the strength of the legislature, rewarded his supporters, had actually himself proclaimed Emperor, presided over an extravagant court, and showered his household with wealth, positions and privileges. He reduced the civil liberties of women. He finished freedom the the press, constrained freedom of association, and created a new, greedy nobility.

Napoleon was responsible because that a most death and also destruction.

Napoleon retained Europe at war for 15 years. This led to an estimated 3.5 million to 6 million deaths, and millions wounded. Plenty of cities, towns and also villages were looted, bombarded, or burned. Thousands to be left homeless. An unknown number of women and girls were raped. Institutions were not correct in the regions Napoleon conquered, and also the economic life that Europe was severely disrupted. Napoleon’s proponents blame various other European nations for the Napoleonic Wars, but in many situations Napoleon enraged the allies. He to be the one who determined to invade Spain and also Russia. He refuse to take methods for peace as soon as they were offered.

Napoleon to be responsible for the massacre at Jaffa

During the Egyptian project in 1799, the French to adjust siege to the city the Jaffa, in what is this particular day Israel and was then under ottoman (Turkish) control. After capturing the city, Napoleon allowed his troops to spend at the very least two job looting the place and raping and also slaughtering that inhabitants, consisting of the elderly, women, and children. He likewise ordered the execution of approximately 3,000 detainees of war (mainly Albanians), also though they had actually been promised mercy once they surrendered to napoleon stepson, Eugène de Beauharnais. The detainees were marched to the beach and shot or bayoneted. Overall, an approximated 4,100 civilization were massacred through the French in ~ Jaffa.

Napoleon left France diminished and bankrupt

Napoleon left France in a weaker position than when he started: exhausted by war; the end of money; border to borders that were smaller than as soon as he pertained to power; shorn of many of her abroad colonies; and also at the mercy of victorious allies.

A long debate

The debate over even if it is Napoleon go more good or damage has been going ~ above ever due to the fact that he died. As soon as news of Napoleon’s fatality reached London in 1821, The Times commented: “Upon the whole, Buonaparte will certainly go under to posterity as a male who, having more great at his disposal than any other potentate of any kind of former age, had actually actually used his immense means to the production of a better share that mischief and also misery to his fellow-creatures.” (1) In contrast, a liberal record in Paris observed: “History, an impartial judge, will confess that Napoleon has actually rendered eminent solutions to the social order…. The reality must sit top top his tomb; and also let us not be diffident in saying the the sinner of St. Helena will certainly be counted amongst the an excellent men.” (2)

Over a century later, French chairman Charles de Gaulle wrote:

Napoleon left France crushed, invaded, drained that blood and courage, smaller than as soon as he had actually taken control of she destinies, condemned come ill-drawn frontiers, the malice of which still persist, and also exposed come the mistrust of Europe which has actually weighed upon her to this day. But it is difficult to dismiss together of no account the matchless lustre which he imparted come our armies.… (3)

More recently, Andrew Roberts and Adam Zamoyski debated whether Napoleon need to be concerned as an excellent (watch here and here).

Regardless the one’s check out of Napoleon, he has long caught the well-known imagination. With his iconic hat, his photo is recognized around the world. He has actually inspired artists, musicians and also writers because that over 200 years. He has actually been provided to sell whatever from antacid to wine. Napoleon to be a male of huge ambition and ability who climbed to the pinnacle of success and then wound up favor Prometheus, chained to a rock. In the indigenous of so late 19th-century British prime Minister lord Rosebery:

No surname represents so totally and conspicuously dominion, splendor, and catastrophe. He elevated himself by the use, and ruined self by the abuse, that superhuman faculties. He was wrecked by the extravagance of his very own genius. No less powers than those which had effected his rise could have accomplished his fall. (4)

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The Times, London, July 5, 1821.

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Le Constitutionnel, Paris, July 11, 1821.Charles de Gaulle, France and Her Army (London, 1945), p. 60.Lord Rosebery, Napoleon: The last Phase (London, 1900), p. 252.