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Reevaluating history: Napoleon Bonaparte

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I'm really happy with the arguments put forward on my previous thread, on the spartans.

A very important character in history, which has a very bad reputation these days, is Napoleon. I think that he is one of the most rational rulers of europe during that century.

Even though he use nationalism extensively, mostly for propaganda, I think that his most important legacy is his commitment to the entablishment of constitutions. He is also a good example of individual achievement, especially in a day and age when religion, nationality and royalty were extremly important.

His rise to power and life-affirming politics of social building, establishment of a secular law system and his attempt at miltarly securing his reign are all admirable.

Most of his detractors claim that he is a selfish butcher who needlessly waged destructive wars against anyone he pleased.

What's your oppinion? Was Napoleon a good influence on Europe's development? Were his additions to laws and social customs valuable?

Was his military career an irrational whim for conquest and looting, or a valid war of self-defence, motivated by the desire of securing stability in Europe?

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It's been a long time since I read anything about Napoleon. I think he could have been a very positive force in France and Europe, but he simply turned into a dictator. His wars of conquest were not to establish freedom anywhere, but simply for his own glory and desire for power and loot. It is my understanding (although I am no expert) that France became basically a police state under Napoleon. He did not allow a free press, he assassinated rivals. He was basically a king, like all the other kings of Europe, only worse, because he was more totalitarian. He fully intended his own son to reign after he died, he put his brothers on various thrones in his European vassal states (Spain, Italy, the various German states).

A common man rising to power is not in itself a good thing. Hitler did the same thing. I know there is such a thing as the Napoleonic Code, but since he was able to run a police state in France under that code, either it wasn't any good, or he simply ignored it. In the end, I think he was simply the first modern dictator, giving an example for the Hitlers, Mussolinis, Lenins and Stalins to come.

PS: It is true his wars outside of France started out as defensive wars, since the European powers wanted to get rid of him. But then he turned them into wars of conquest, like all conquerors before him. He was a great admirer of Alexander and Caesar, if I remember correctly.

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I know there is such a thing as the Napoleonic Code, but since he was able to run a police state in France under that code, either it wasn't any good, or he simply ignored it.

According to the Napoleonic Code--which is still in effect in France today--you are guilty until proven innocent. There was no need for him to ignore it; the very reason he instituted it was to allow him to create a tyranny.

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I'm currently reading Vincent Cronin's fascinating biography of Napoleon.

Bonaparte made many mistakes, that I attribute to his surrounding - but he remains one of my most admired historical figures. His energy was overwhelming, and sometimes it seems he was the only rational man in whole of France.

If one should judge a ruler by the life of citizens in his time - then in France, I would rather live under Napoleon than under any other government before or since.

The Napoleonic Code is in many fields a great achievement. But I am no expert on this subject.

As an aspiring fiction writer I will note that the return of Napoleon from exile and his retaking of France with a handful of soldiers is the stuff great art is made of. You cannot help but admire this man's courage.

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