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Napoleon Bonaparte And His Wish For A European System

846 words - 4 pages

Towards the end of his life Napoleon Bonaparte said, “"I wished to found a European system, a European Code of Laws, a European judiciary: there would be but one people in Europe," and while he never quite achieved this vision, his attempts to do so would irrevocably transform the European political landscape. Driven by the reforming ideals of the Enlightenment, Napoleon overhauled entrenched traditional hierarchies in the areas of Europe he conquered and toppled many of the ruling dynasties across the Continent in his quest for a uniform Europe. In their place he constructed and imposed upon much of Europe, a form of the modern nation-state that would redraw Europe’s political map.
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Across this Empire, Napoleon and his vassal rulers exported the ideologies and applied the reforms and institutions of the French Revolution. While the extent to which reforms and legislation were from one area of the Empire to the other varied, the newly created 130 departments across Europe busied themselves with convincing the peoples of the advantages of replication of the French model of government and establishing the Napoleonic Code in every conquered region. The results of its implementation were increased legal equality, an established jury system, and legalized divorce and slowly but surely, the traditional institutions of Europe were swept aside and replace with institutions that reflected the French model.
As Napoleon extended French influence across Europe, the political frontiers of Europe were redrawn. Hobsbawm states that the most important change during the Napoleonic era was the overall “rationalization” of the European political map, particularly in the regions directly absorbed into the French empire such as the annexed German Rhineland and sections of northern Italy. Beginning with the French Revolution and then continuing with Napoleon, the characteristic European feudal state was swept away, to be replaced by the nascent modern state, a state characterised by territorial consistency, an intact area with clearly defined borders, governed by a sole sovereign authority and following one system of administration and law. Even those European rulers seeking to withstand French control also embraced Napoleonic innovations, and established written constitutions and sought to galvanise a nationalistic sentiment amongst their citizens in their efforts to resist domination. It was clear to Napoleon’s...

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