Impact of Napoleon on Europe

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Impact of Napoleon on Europe

Napoleon saw his role as a modernizer of Europe. Within the wide swathe of territory that came under his control, Napoleon set about introducing many of the reforms that he had already introduced in France. Through a return to monarchy Napoleon had, no doubt destroyed democracy in France, but in the administrative field, he had incorporated revolutionary principles in order to make the whole system more rational and efficient. The Civil Code of 1804 – usually known as the Napoleonic Code – did away with all privileges based on birth, established equality before the law and secured the right to property. This Code was exported to the regions under French control.  In the Dutch  Republic,    in Switzerland, in Italy and Germany, Napoleon simplified administrative divisions, abolished the feudal system and freed peasants from serfdom and manorial dues. In the towns too, guild restrictions were removed. Transport and communication systems were improved. Peasants, artisans, workers and new businessmen enjoyed a new-found freedom. He introduced many laws such as the protection of private property and a uniform system of weights and measures provided by the decimal system. Businessmen and small-scale producers of goods, in particular, began to realize that uniform laws, standardized weights and measures, and a common national currency would facilitate the movement and exchange of goods and capital from one region to another. Initially, many saw Napoleon as a liberator who would bring freedom for the people. However, in the areas conquered, the reactions of the local populations to French rule were mixed. Initially, in many places such as Holland and Switzerland, as well as in certain cities like Brussels, Mainz, Milan, and Warsaw, the French armies were welcomed as harbingers of liberty. But the initial enthusiasm soon turned to hostility, as it became clear that the new administrative arrangements did not go hand in hand with political freedom. Increased taxation, censorship, forced conscription into the French armies required to conquer the rest of Europe, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of the administrative changes. Soon the Napoleonic armies came to be viewed everywhere as an invading force. Many of his measures that carried the revolutionary ideas of liberty and modern laws to other parts of Europe had an impact on people long after Napoleon had left.

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