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.
In 1799 Napoleon inherited a nation that had already experience rapid political transformation. The intense political disharmony over equality and liberty that characterised the French Revolution had resulted in a series of constitutions aimed at strengthening national unity that had dramatically changed the relationship between the people and state. The policies and reforms of the Napoleonic era, while questionable to a modern mind accustomed to participatory democracy, were, in many ways, a continuation of the revolutionary reforms. The key principles of the Revolution were encapsulated in the Napoleon’s Civil Code: merit based appointment and promotion, all men equal before the law, freedom of religion, and the right to work in any occupation. Firmly believing in universal applicability of a rational and scientifically constructed government, the domestic policy changes and administrative reordering Napoleon made in France, would go on to parallel the changes to external territories.
By 1810, after years of military conquest in what became k...
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...d new orders” Vienna Congress of 1915, sought to prevent continued revolution established a new international framework-purpose to maintain power balance between the European states
While not all of the political adjustments made in Europe by Napoleon had a lasting impact, in those regions directly absorbed into the French empire, the institutions imposed by Napoleon remained long after 1815, particularly the Napoleonic Code, which became the foundation for local law across Belgium, the Rhineland and Italy.
In subsequent years, though Napoleon’s bureaucracy was dismantled rulers seeking to increase efficiency in their states looked to Napoleon’s supremely organised bureaucracy for direction.
Ford notes the adjustment that must be made in the historians’ conception of Europe when moving from the 18th century to the 19th due to the fundamental transformation.
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