What were the effects of Napoleon’s reign? First, despite the manifest abuses of occupied territories, the Napoleonic army still brought with it significant reform. It brought a taste for a more egalitarian social system with it, a law code based on rationality instead of tradition, and a major weakening of the nobility. It also directly inspired a growing sense of nationalism, especially since the Napoleonic Empire was so clearly French despite its pretensions to universalism. Napoleon's tendency to loot occupied territories to enrich the French led many of his subjects to recognize the hypocrisy of his "egalitarian" empire, and in the absence of their old kings they began to think of themselves as Germans and Italians and Spaniards rather than just subjects to a king.
The myth of Napoleon was significant as well – he became the great romantic hero, despite his own decidedly unromantic personality, thought of as a modern Julius Caesar or Alexander the Great (just as he had hoped). He gave to France its greatest hour of dominance in European history, and for more than fifty years the rest of Europe lived in fear of another French invasion. This was the context that the kingdoms that had allied against him were left with in 1815. At a series of meetings known as the Congress of Vienna, Britain, Russia, Prussia, and Austria gathered together in the Austrian capital of Vienna to try to rebuild the European order. What they could not do, however, was undo everything that Napoleon’s legacy completely, and so European (and soon, world) history’s course was changed by a single unique man from Corsica.
Image Citations (Creative Commons):
Napoleon on his Throne - Public Domain
Napoleonic Empire - Trajan 117
Third of May - Public Domain
Napoleon's Retreat - Public Domain