Napoleonic Europe (1799-1815)

Key Terms and Events


Cisalpine Republic  -  Country in Northern Italy, under French control, formed by the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797. In 1801, it was reorganized into the Italian Republic.
Confederation of the Rhine  -  Lasting from 1806 to 1813, the Confederation of the Rhine replaced the old Holy Roman Empire and was Napoleon-controlled Germany.
Consulate  -  French government from 1799 to 1804, set up by Napoleon and Sieyes after their overthrow of the Directory. Napoleon was First Consul. Set up as an oligarchy, Napoleon ended up becoming the sole dictator of the regime. In 1804, he replaced the consulate with the Empire.
Continental System  -  Napoleon's plan to stop all shipping of British goods into Europe. Announced by the Berlin Decree of 1806, the Continental System resulted in a British blockade of all European shipping, and ended up hurting France more than Britain. By trying to spread the Continental System into Spain, Napoleon and France had to endure the constant harassment of the disastrous Peninsular War.
First Coalition  -  Grouping of European states against Revolutionary France that lasted from 1792 to 1797. Ended after Napoleon defeated Austria in his Italian campaign, which rocketed him to popularity in France.
Grand Duchy of Warsaw  -  Name Napoleon gave to the Polish state he created in 1807, and which lasted until 1815. Though technically independent, it was in reality under Napoleon's control. Czar Alexander I of Russia was seriously upset by the recreation of the Polish state, since he wanted the territory badly.
Holy Alliance  -  1815 agreement promoted by Czar Alexander I, by which most European powers promised to uphold Christian virtues like peace and charity. Only Britain, Turkey, and the Pope refused to join the Holy Alliance. However, few took the agreement very seriously.
Jacobins  -  Extreme revolutionaries, who held a very liberal equalitarian vision. The Jacobins also had a reputation for violence, since they had controlled and initiated the Terror during the French Revolution. The term Jacobin evoked both contempt and fear in post- Revolutionary France.
Napoleonic Code  -  Napoleon's system of laws, particularly the civil code, which he first announced in 1804. The code remains a basis of European continental law to this day. It differs from Anglo-American "Common Law" tradition practiced in most of the US in several ways; for instance, it is less concerned with protecting alleged criminals' legal rights.
Nationalism  -  A modern phenomena in which people feel that a person's main loyalty should be to their state (tied up in patriotism). It is actually a fairly new idea, which first appeared at the end of the 18th century in the American and French Revolutions. During the Napoleonic era, domination by France gave rise to a nationalist movement in Germany.
Neoclassical  -  A late 18th and early 19th century style in painting and artwork that emphasized an idealized version of classical (Greek and Roman) art. An example is the work of the French painter David.
Romanticism  -  A general 19th-century intellectual rebellion against the Rationalism espoused by the French Enlightenment. This movement was particularly vibrant in Germany, which chafed under French rule and desired to rebel against French systems and influence.
Second Coalition  -  1798 to 1802 anti-French coalition. Austria, Russia, and Britain were in the Coalition, but Prussia did not join. After the Treaty of Luneville and the Peace of Amiens, the Second Coalition ended, and a one-year period of Europe-wide peace prevailed.
Third Coalition  -  1805 Coalition of the anti-Napoleonic powers. When Alexander I signed the Treaty of Tilsit and sided with Napoleon, this coalition came to a halt.
Volksgeist  -  German term essentially meaning the "spirit of a nation." Romantic thinkers like Herder and Fichte believed that all nations had their own unique volksgeist, which meant that the same laws and governments were did not apply to everyone in the same way. This was a reaction against the universalistic notions of the French Enlightenment.


War of 1812  -  During the Napoleonic Wars, the British made a policy of stopping US ships from landing in European ports. Also, the British abused their dominance of the sea to board American ships and "impress" sailors (force them into British navy service). Ultimately, these conflicts led to the War of 1812, which began in 1812 and ended in 1814, and which neither side decisively won.
Peace of Amiens  -  1802 pact by which the British and French agreed not to fight. 1802 was the only year during all of the Napoleonic era when no European power was officially at war with another European power.
Austerlitz  -  December 2, 1805 battle, in which Napoleon's army defeated the Russian and Austrian armies. The Russian army limped back to Poland while the Austrians surrendered their Italian territory of Venetia to the French.
Berlin Decree  -  In 1806, Napoleon announced the Continental System with this decree.
Treaty of Chaumont  -  On March 9, 1814, the four powers that defeated Napoleon (Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia) all agreed to ally for 20 years, promising to fight together to stop France if it ever got too powerful again.
Concordat  -  The French Revolutionarygovernments had treated the Catholic Church in France very badly, and the government had confiscated a great chunk of Church property. The Concordat, signed on July 15, 1801, represented a reconciliation between France and the Catholic Church. This prevented the Catholic Church from being a source of opposition to Napoleon's regime.
Congress of Vienna  -  1814 to 1815 conference of the European powers in which they decided how to repartition Europe after defeating Napoleon. The Congress was one of the most massive and significant treaties ever, and it created a Europe wherein the balance of power prevented a Europe-wide war for a hundred years.
Treaty of Fontainebleau  -  Treaty in 1814 by which Napoleon was exiled to Elba and promised a stipend of 2 million francs a year (which he never received). Napoleon was also allowed to keep the title of Emperor.
Friedland  -  June 14, 1807 battle in which Napoleon defeated the Russian army in Poland. Not wanting to retreat into Russia, Alexander I was forced to sign the Treaty of Tilsit.
Hundred Days  -  March 20, 1815 to July 8, 1815. During this period, Napoleon returned from exile in Elba and tried to return to power. He was finally defeated at Waterloo and sent to Saint Helena, where he died.
Leipzig  -  October 1813 battle (the Battle of Nations) in which Napoleon's army of raw recruits was defeated by a four-nation alliance. Leipzig was the largest battle in terms of numbers of soldiers up to that time.
Treaty of Luneville  -  February 1800 treaty by which the Austrians and French renewed the condition of the Treaty of Campo Formio.
Marengo  -  June 1800 battle in which Napoleon defeated Austria, forcing them to sign the Treaty of Luneville and bringing the Second Coalition to an end.
Treaty of Paris  -  There have been innumerable treaties of Paris, but the one signed by Louis XVIII on May 30, 1814 restored France to its 1792 boundaries.
Peninsular War  -  1808-1814 war in the Iberian Peninsula, in which the Portuguese, Spanish, and British (under Wellington) fought the French, who were trying to impose the Continental System.
Treaty of Tilsit  -  An 1807 treaty requiring both Russia and Prussia to join the Continental System. Russian, Prussia, and Austria actually declared war on Britain following the treaty.
Trafalgar  -  October 21, 1805 naval battle off the coast of Spain, in which Napoleon's navy of 33 French and Spanish ships was decimated by the British fleet of 27 ships. Admiral Horatio Nelson commanded the British fleet, and lost his life in the battle. The battle firmly established Britain's naval supremacy for the rest of the 19th century.
Waterloo  -  June 18, 1815 battle in which Napoleon was finally defeated by the British (under Wellington) and the Prussians (under Blucher). Napoleon had a chance to attack the British forces before the Prussians were there to join in the battle, but he made the crucial mistake of waiting for the muddy ground to dry before attacking.