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  • Hi I'm John Green and this is Crash Course European History.

  • So, the word revolution is a funny one, because it literally means a full turn of 360 degrees.

  • Like, you end a revolution where you started out.

  • But in history, revolution means radical change, stark departures from the world that was,

  • and the messy, often violent embrace of a new world.

  • The French Revolution was in different ways both kinds of Revolution--in the end, an absolutist

  • government was replaced by an absolutist government.

  • But the change that emerged from the Revolution was real and lasting.

  • It helped usher in a world where people saw themselves as citizens of a community rather

  • than subjects of a king.

  • And eventually, a rising military star named Napoleon Bonaparte would prove that having

  • your dad be king of France was not the only way to become ruler of France.

  • [Intro] Napoleon grew up poor in Corsica, but he loved

  • reading and managed to secure a scholarship to a military academy.

  • As a kid, he spoke Corsican and Italian and didn't start learning French until he was

  • ten.

  • And he was bullied for his accented French and for his overall tininess--although despite

  • what you may have heard about Napoleon Complexes, Bonaparte would eventually end up being around

  • five feet seven inches tall, about average for an 18th century man.

  • He entered the army as a second lieutenant in 1785 and began to rise through the ranks

  • throughout the tumultuous years of the French Revolution.

  • By the time he was 24, in 1793, he was a brigadier general working under the Committee for Public

  • Safety, which as you'll recall killed a lot of the public in the name of public safety.

  • And then in 1798, Napoleon crossed into Egypt with an entire army at his command, aiming

  • to disrupt Britain's access to India.

  • In addition to lots of soldiers, Napoleon brought with him scientists, linguists, and

  • other scholars to advance knowledge and also carry off more Egyptian riches.

  • The Egyptians were impressed by the openness of these scholars, but in general the French

  • completely appalled the local people with their crude ways and drunkenness.

  • And even as Napoleon flattered the Egyptians by declaring himself a worshiper of Islam,

  • he ultimately stole and desecrated many Egyptian artefacts--although later he also stole and

  • desecrated lots of artefacts from around Europe.

  • He loved a plundered artefact!

  • At any rate, Napoleon ultimately had to return to France in 1799, as his army and navy were

  • defeated by the British and the Egyptians.

  • And that timing turned out to be perfect: The Directory, which you'll recall, was

  • a five-person committee governing France after the collapse of Robespierre's Committee

  • for Public Safety, was overseeing a still-floundering economy and fighting wars on many fronts.

  • Napoleon helped overthrow the directorate in 1799, and quickly becameFirst Consul,”

  • and then took as his first task mending fences with the Catholic Church.

  • He agreed to the Concordat of 1801, which recognized Catholicism as the primary French

  • religion.

  • It also validated the sale of Church lands and the state's payment of clergymen's

  • salaries if they swore to uphold the French government.

  • And that was important because it ensured him the support one of France's most important

  • institutions, and you'll recall our discussions about how even dictators need support from

  • within their holdings.

  • But it's also telling that Napoleon would eventually be excommunicated by the Catholic

  • Church for annexing Papal lands for France.

  • Napoleon was also popular with the people: He offered a solution to decades of instability

  • and economic decline.

  • He won majorities when he had his candidacy for office and other decisions approved by

  • a plebiscite or vote, cast by men over the age of 21.

  • In 1802 he had himself declared Consul for Life and in 1804 Emperor.

  • Did the center of the world just open up?

  • Is there a bust of somebody who actually believes himself to be the center of the world in there?

  • It is!

  • It's Napoleon himself.

  • Stan got this in Paris.

  • I can tell, because it says, “Souvenier de Paris.”

  • So this bust of Napoleon complete with its armlessness and being cut off at the torso

  • and everything is extremely Roman-ish.

  • And this was part of how Napoleon justified his dictatorial form of government.

  • He saidno, we're just going back to the Roman Empire...to the good old days of

  • ancient Rome.”

  • And dictators do this a lot.

  • From the Russian word Tsar, which comes from the word Caesar, to 20th century dictators,

  • when your leaders start talking about reviving the glory of the Roman Empire, get nervous.

  • Oh look, its half-French, half-Roman Napoleon.

  • So, during the French Revolution, leaders promoted the ancient Roman idea of virtuthat

  • is, the sacrifice of personal interest for the good of the republic, the whole.

  • Napoleon continued all that Roman imagery but switched it from the Roman Republic to

  • the Roman Empire.

  • you can even see this in his journey from being a Consul to being an Emperor.

  • He was portrayed in lavish costume and crowned with the laurel leaves of a conquering hero.

  • Empirestyle in furniture arose and women donned slim white dresses, free from

  • corsets and voluminous petticoats, in imitation of Roman statuary.

  • And Napoleon saw himself as a modern Justinian--the famed ancient lawgiver.

  • So to that end, he set out to have the most celebrated jurists under his guidance produce

  • a rational code of laws.

  • Completed in 1804, the Code Napoléon (aka the Napoleonic Code) standardized the laws

  • of citizenship, family, and property.

  • The Code made rules for financial transfers and mortgages and for other legal transactions

  • concerning property standards across France instead of differing from province to province.

  • And legal standardization facilitated modern economic development.

  • But the other two sections on family and citizenship stunned many for the way they impoverished

  • and curtailed most of the rights of women.

  • Under the Napoleonic Code, women had no right to their own property once they were married--not

  • even the wages they earned themselves.

  • They could not serve as witnesses in court nor have control over or guardianship of their

  • own children.

  • They had to live where their husband directed them to live.

  • If they committed adultery, they were sent to jail.

  • But men, in contrast, would only be charged with a crime if they brought a sexual partner

  • into the family home.

  • I'm not making this up.

  • Lest you think that history is simply a march toward more people having more rights….not

  • always.

  • But by creating laws that specifically targeted the economy, the empire was seen as paving

  • the way for modernization.

  • And other institutions followed: individual schools were founded for higher education

  • in engineering, science and technology, and for developing a cadre of advanced teachers.

  • Napoleon also sponsored the creation of lycées, or high schools.

  • Countries in Europe and across the globe imitated the French legal and educational systems as

  • they too strove to become modern as well.

  • This may not seem like a huge deal, but consider how different the world becomes as more people

  • have access to more education: There are more potential innovators to solve

  • big problems, and more people who can use the tool of writing to share their perspectives

  • with wide audiences, and more teachers to train and educate future generations of professionals

  • and experts.

  • On the other hand, it's worth remembering that half of the population--women--were denied

  • not just most of the new opportunities in France but also many of the rights they'd

  • previously had.

  • So, Napoleon initially succeeded in France because he quelled the political chaos by

  • making himself an emblem of authority and order.

  • Right out of the dictator playbook.

  • He also created a police state with strict censorship and spies operating in everyday

  • life.

  • And he restored the monarchical system of aristocratic titles and hierarchies, even

  • giving back titles to some of the old aristocracy who could help revive the appearance of ceremonial

  • grandeur.

  • And so in all those ways, Napoleon was returning to Louis XIV's absolutism, so the revolution

  • did turn all the way around, ending where it started, in that sense.

  • While members of Napoleon's family often became wealthy and titled, his enemies were

  • frequently exiled from France.

  • The most famous of his exiled enemies was Germaine de Staël, the wealthiest woman in

  • Europe and one of the most accomplished.

  • De Staël never stopped criticizing the dictator, although at first she found him fascinating

  • and even thought she might become his companion.Early on, she probed him for an expression of admiration

  • of her talents by asking what kind of woman he valued most.

  • He responded, “the one with the most childrenand pointedly gazed at her chest.

  • After that, she denounced his brutal nature to whoever would listen, rallying opponents

  • around her.

  • But Napoleon had as many plans for Europe as he had for France and he set out to conquer

  • and colonize all of Europe and the British Isles.

  • He amassed a huge army by drafting young men between the ages of 20 and 24, then he earned

  • their complete devotion by fighting alongside them in at least sixty battles.

  • As he conquered German and Austrian territory, he brought men from those areas into his armies

  • too.

  • And by 1806, he had ended the Holy Roman Empire after defeating Austria in several battles,

  • most thoroughly at the battle of Austerlitz in 1805.

  • Then he went on to defeat Prussia in 1806 and Russia in 1807 after they declared war

  • on France in succession.

  • Napoleon then forced or inspired reforms such as the end of serfdom, legislating religious

  • toleration, and creating schools to advance scientific and technological study.

  • And he unified German states excluding Austria in the Confederation of the Rhine.

  • His imposition of the Napoleonic Code, the metric system, and other institutions for

  • standardization helped to unify Europe.

  • What is the metric system? Stan says it's something that Europeans

  • do, like soccer and ensuring that all citizens have health care.

  • One of the big effects of Napoleon's European ambitions was that it inspired a lot of nationalism

  • among his new subjects, who mostly opposed his dictatorial regimes, in places where one

  • of his brothers usually.

  • I mean, for one thing, most of these newly conquered lands were run by one of Napoleon's

  • brothers, who'd serve as surrogate monarch, and if you're gonna live in a dictatorship,

  • you wanna at least be dictated by the dictator himself.

  • Not some brother.

  • It's like going to see the matinee of a big Broadway show, and instead of getting

  • the big star, you get some understudy. at any rate, this is important because people

  • began to think of themselves as, for instance, German in part because they didn't want

  • to think of themselves as French.

  • Napoleon's goal was to colonize the entire continent, and he mostly succeeded, but Spain

  • was still unconquered and thwarting his Continental system when in 1807 Napoleon struck with an

  • army of some 100,000 men.

  • Spanish and Portuguese royals both left their capitals.

  • Napoleon installed yet another brother (Joseph) as king and resistance swelledwith help

  • from the British and Arthur Wellesley, who would later become the Duke of Wellington.

  • And you can see the effects in art.

  • Jacques-Louis David painted triumphant moments in Napoleon's career, including his self-coronation

  • as emperor.

  • But Spanish painter Francisco Goya depicted Napoleonic rule as a reign of terror.

  • HisThird of May 1808” shows a French firing squad mowing down peasants and clergy

  • alike.

  • Goya remained a chronicler of Spanish resistance and French barbarism, as tens of thousands

  • of French troops had to occupy the conquered kingdom because of Spanish hatred of the conquerors.

  • Let's go to the Thought Bubble.

  • 1.

  • Despite ongoing problems, Napoleon became determined to conquer and absorb all of Russia,

  • 2.

  • especially since it had opted out of his Continental System.

  • 3.

  • He built an army of some 600,000 to 700,000 men from across his lands

  • 4. and began his invasion in June of 1812.

  • 5.

  • Having trudged hundreds of miles, troops were exhausted and overcome by the heat,

  • 6. and the Rusians refused to engage in battle.

  • 7.

  • Instead, they retreated, practicing so-calledscorched earth tacticsby burning and

  • destroying any resource

  • 8.

  • including food and livestock that could be of use to the invaders.

  • 9.

  • Finally at Borodino, the two sides engaged in what was ultimately a costly victory for

  • the French,

  • 10. who lost 30,000 men, while the Russians lost 45,000.

  • 11.

  • But the French were thousands of miles from home territory, and so reinforcing and resupplying

  • their army proved difficult.

  • 12.

  • Foreign recruits, who were not as loyal to Napoleon, began melting away as winter approached

  • and conditions worsened.

  • 13.

  • The remaining 100,000ish invaders marched on from Borodino, some 70 miles from Moscow,

  • 14.

  • but on reaching their destination, they found the city consumed by fire

  • 15.

  • shelter and other necessities were once again in short supply.

  • 16.

  • Still Napoleon waited for Tsar Alexander I to surrender and agree to terms.

  • 17.

  • But when the surrender failed to materialize,

  • 18.

  • Napoleon led his depleted, starving, and frostbitten army westward to Poland.

  • 19.

  • Many had died; many other soldiers had deserted, and more French troops would be killed by

  • the Cossacks as they retreated.

  • 20.

  • Only 40,000 of Napoleon's soldiers reached Poland alive in 1813.

  • Thanks Thought Bubble.

  • So, the European powers took note of the Emperor's bedraggled forces and formed a coalition that

  • included Russia, Austria, Prussia, and Sweden.

  • In 1813, their armies, backed by British financing, defeated French forces at Leipzig.

  • This battle was waged because Napoleon refused to accept the allies' terms, which initially

  • allowed him to continue to rule France.

  • In early 1814 he abdicated and headed for exile on Elba, an island in the Mediterranean.

  • A year later, he escaped, returned to France, gathered an army, and confronted the powers

  • once more, finally surrendering on July 15, 1815 after being defeated at Waterloo.

  • Napoleon was living in exile on the distant island of St. Helena when he died on May 5,

  • 1821--thirty two years to the day after the meeting of the Estates-General that set the

  • French Revolution into motion.

  • Consider all that had happened in those 32 years, and you'll understand why this period

  • of French history is seen as so important to world history.

  • Decades after his death, Napoleon's remains were lavishly returned to France, placed in

  • the Church of the Dome in the heart of Paris, and eventually re-encased in a grander sarcophagus

  • under the church's golden dome itself.

  • Why?

  • Remember that under him, French achievements were massive in terms of education, commitment

  • to science, standardization, modernization of the economy and administration, and opening

  • the door to opportunity for ordinary people.