Essay: Rise of Napoleon

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This is an excerpt from an essay on Napoleon. Underlying all these intricacy was the war against the First Coalition (comprising Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Austria, Prussia and Sardinia and Naples), which had been intense since 1792. Despite its achievement against several of these, the Directory was never able to win a lasting harmony.

Underlying all these intricacy was the war against the First Coalition (comprising Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Austria, Prussia and Sardinia and Naples), which had been intense since 1792. Despite its achievement against several of these, the Directory was never able to win a lasting harmony. Even when Austria was forced out of the war, ceding Belgium and a strong position in Italy and the Rhineland to France at the Treaty of Campo Formio in October 1797, Britain fought on and the ‘peace’ was nothing more than a brittle truce shattered less than a year later by the advent of the War of the Second Coalition.

The Fructidor coup foreshadowed the end of the Directory, for three major reasons.

  • The policies which they followed did not include to the popularity of the regime.
  • The coup showed that the regime would not recognize the results of elections.
  • Thirdly, Fructidor reflected the lack of support for the regime and its dependence on the army for its survival.[1].

The picture of a brilliant general had been mainly constructed by Bonaparte himself, who had quickly grasped the political value of propaganda. Bonaparte made sure he took the credit for the Continental peace brought by the Treaty of Campo Formio. Although he bore much blame for the renewal of conflict, Bonaparte was absent from the military disasters which ensue in Europe, being far away in Egypt.


[1] But the army was not the reflexive instrument of the civil authorities and was becoming, more and more, a tool in the hands of the generals

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