Napoleon Bonaparte Individualism

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“Napoleon Bonaparte, the most extraordinary character who has ever yet figured on the great theatre of the world,” is how he was viewed in the early 19th century, during his rise to power, after the French Revolution. However, today the character of Napoleon and his achievements sparks a great debate between historians. Was he a true revolutionary or a dictator? Was he a reformer or repressive authoritarian? It would be simple to conclude that Napoleon did not promote the values of the revolution – especially after 1799 – but instead strived to achieve full supremacy not just in France but also across Europe. Though there is an element of truth to this, I put forward the argument that whilst Napoleon didn’t always act in accordance with the …show more content…
Within these rights was freedom of speech, a key issue, especially since the enlightenment had been part of what sparked the Revolution. This 18th century movement stood for individualism rather than tradition; exactly what the revolutionaries were attempting in ending the old regime. It has even been put forward that the “French Revolution really did represent the triumph of the enlightenment,” yet through his use of propaganda and censorship Napoleon demolished this value almost entirely. Even by 1811, “only four daily newspapers were appearing in Paris, all virtual instruments of the governments.” The fact that this is the same number of newspapers that had legal privilege to publish in the capital before 1789 just shows the sincerity and extent of censorship at this time, thus reversing the intended revolutionary impact. Napoleon even stated himself that he wouldn’t “allow the papers to say or do anything contrary to my interests.” However, some historians have argued in defence of Napoleon’s actions at this time. Woloch stated that everyone was aware of the regime’s “control of the media” and Roberts argument causes great debate as he stated that although it was “objectionable by modern standards, Napoleon’s move was little other than standard practice for his time and circumstances.” …show more content…
Whilst he was in power his actions did help preserve key values of the Revolution and attempted to secure the liberty, equality and fraternity of the French people. What is difficult to conclude however is whether he continued to do this after 1799. Martyn Lyons stated, “at various moments in his career his own ambitions diverged from the cause of the revolution” and I think this became the case especially after he made himself Emperor. He still saw himself as the son of the revolution and believed his actions were all revolutionary but more often than not they were a result of his own ambition, he had the power to re-introduce hereditary rule, create a state centred around censorship and propaganda and surround himself with collaborators who always insisted that “the basic gains of the revolution stood as their priority.” Winston Churchill once said that Napoleon Bonaparte was “The greatest man of action born in Europe since Julius Ceasar.” There is no doubt that Napoleon begun so successful because of his successes in battle but as a leader of France he effectively created a dictatorship, refuting many of the values and achievements of the

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