12a. The Napoleonic Empire in Europe

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12a. The Napoleonic Empire in Europe
Using these four passages and your own knowledge, assess the view that Napoleon’s Empire in Europe

after 1804 offered little benefit to its subjects.

Interpretation A: This historian sees elements of reform in the Empire, but argues that Napoleon’s

priority was France.

In order to maintain unity, Napoleon took his inspiration from Roman principles. He gave primary

importance to communication routes. A decree of 16 December 1811 established a grading of the

fourteen first class routes stretching out from Paris to the distant parts of the Empire. The quality of

the roads should not be exaggerated. Many people only travelled on foot. Napoleon inspired by the

Romans, imposed a common legislation on his Empire. The Civil Code was introduced in all annexed

territories and in all dependent kingdoms. A new society was to be born in which the peasant would

be liberated from seigneurial rights and in which the bourgeoisie would be the economically powerful

class. Napoleon saw the Civil Code as an instrument of war against feudalism. Except for annexed

territories he was careful not to impose the Civil Code everywhere. He was a reformer who knew how

to advance by stages. This can be seen from the language used. The administration was bi-lingual.

Responsible posts were given in preference to Frenchmen, but Italians, Belgians and Dutchmen had

seats in the Senate. In annexed territories teaching was allowed to keep its own identity; France did

not become an obligatory second language; there was no attempt to destroy the soul of conquered

provinces. Besides, conscription was an important factor in the integration of peoples with a different

language. Unification was also economic. The Empire represented a market of 80 million consumers.

The key to the Napoleonic system was the fact that the market was reserved for French industry. My

principle, Napoleon said, is France before everything!
From: Jean Tulard, Napoleon, the Myth of the Saviour, published in 1977

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