The organization of Napoleon's empire was by no means simple. Each of the dependent states existed under various regimes that gave a poor illusion of self-government. This Napoleonic hodgepodge included a Swiss Federation, the Italian Republic, and the Confederation of the Rhine. Though Czar Alexander I was very vocal that Napoleon should not recreate the old state of Poland, Napoleon did it anyway, giving it a new name: The Grand Duchy of Warsaw. Alexander was not impressed by Napoleon's creativity.

Though in France Napoleon had begun to grant nobility, his dominance of the European continent continued to spread the liberal ideal of the French Revolution throughout Europe. Napoleon did not believe that every country was a special situation that deserved unique treatment. Instead, he was a "universalist", believing that the same universal truths and laws applied exactly the same, everywhere. He therefore spread his system of laws, the Napoleonic Code, to all of the territories he controlled, with only minor changes from place to place. Although Napoleon brought conflict wherever he went, he also spread the idea of societies in which everyone was equal before the law, and where legal privileges for certain classes did not exist. Napoleon did what he could to end peasantry, although in Eastern Europe (for instance in Poland) peasantry seemed to continue even when it was legally outlawed, because the same people continued to own the land, and the same people continued to work it. It general, though, the Napoleonic Code was a dramatically modernizing force, bringing about social reform from its effects on modernizing of the Prussian bureaucracy into a meritocracy to its creation of the idea of the totally secular state. Napoleon even ended the Inquisition in Spain, perhaps a further reason for the proud, tradition-bound Spaniards to fight back ferociously in the Peninsular War.

In addition to his social and political reforms, Napoleon also spread the more rational metric system used in France after the Enlightenment, a major reason why it is used so widely there today. Britain, where Napoleon did not impose his system of laws and regulations, was slower in adopting the metric system.

Bit by bit, Napoleon's armies carried parts of the French Revolution throughout Europe, provoking a kind of "Revolution without revolution" on the continent. All of this was done without concentration camps, and Fouche's secret police was almost entirely for spying, almost never for killing. As attempts to take over Europe go, Napoleon's can be seen as a fairly positive event in many ways. Napoleon and many French saw the Napoleonic Empire as a recreation of the once great and heavily romanticized Roman Empire. Neoclassical French artists like Jacques-Louis David did their best to associate France with glories of Imperial Rome. Napoleon encouraged a monument- building campaign, constructing Triumphal Arches in the style of the Romans. From 1807-1811, other than the continued threat posed by Britain, Napoleon's dream of a unified Europe appeared a distinct possibility.

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