Significance of Napoleonic Era:
The importance of the Napoleonic Era (1799-1815) does not lie in Napoleon’s military achievements. The very importance of the Napoleonic Era lies in that he fulfilled the historic aims of the Revolution. His foreign campaigns uprooted the old system which prevailed in many European countries. Consequently, Europe was rejuvenated and political power was shared in a novel way. The old map of Europe was drawn. The feelings of liberty, equality and fraternity blossomed spontaneously in the peoples of those countries where the French troops reached. The French Revolution culminated in the European revolution due to the significant contribution made by Napoleon’s expansion of empire and good administration. The inhabitants of the Netherlands, the Rhine regions and most of Italy- which were under the rule of France had become accustomed to equality. The systems of feudalism and serfdom were abolished in the states of central and south Germany, Naples and Spain subjugated by Napoleon. People enjoyed religious freedom and the principles of democratic rule were established. Napoleon’s progress affected his enemies. Certain social and political reforms had been introduced in Prussia and Austria but those reforms were initiated by the French revolutionaries and Napoleon had organized and diffused them. It was Napoleon who infused in European countries the spirit that anyone can make progress by dint of his personal capabilities and intelligence rather than by birth, Hence in several countries of Europe, all the doors of progress were opened for those who were endowed with intelligence.
The most invaluable thing Napoleon gave to Europe was the spirit of nationalism. He was the first person who drew the line of real demarcation for the states of Italy and Germany in place of simply giving them geographical names. It paved the way for the unification of Italy and Germany. It may be pointed out that in the case of these countries Napoleon was the prince who woke the sleeping princess in the forest by moving a magical wand. The citizens of many countries were benefited from the spirit of nationalism. Napoleon’s activities cultivated the spirit of nationalism in several countries unawares. The soldiers enlisted in Napoleon’s army from various parts of Italy fought many battles under his command and the feeling of mutual love and sympathy sprouted in them. Foreign soldiers became aware of the fact that Italy was one nation although it was severed into many states. An organized and harmonious government was established in Italy under Napoleon’s dominion. Italy made tremendous progress under French rule. The war was conducive to the unification of Italy. Out of 200 independent states of Germany Napoleon built a loose confederation of 39 states and instilled the idea of nationalism into the minds of German people after eliminating the Holy Roman Empire. It was Napoleon’s contribution that the idea of nationalism gave an impetus to the German states to redeem themselves from the influence of Austria. Poland’s condition was more wretched than that of any other country. Poland was divided between Russia, Austria and Prussia. But Napoleon sketched out the map of united Poland before the public by way of forming the “Dutchy of Warsaw” in the region dominated by Poland. In this way, the spirit of nationalism swayed the Polish public too. But the dream of a united Poland came true after the end of World War I. Napoleon’s imperialistic drive stirred a nationalistic spirit in Spain. If Napoleon had not launched an attack on Spain, the spirit of nationalism might not have intensified in the hearts of Spanish children. In a nutshell, it may be pointed out that the progress of the creation of modern Europe had accelerated during the Napoleonic era.