Europe at the height of the Napoleonic Wars.

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The Napoleonic Wars (and thus his Empire) should be seen as a continuation of the French Revolutionary Wars. Contrary to popular belief, most countries in Europe really weren’t interested in war with France due to the treatment of the king. The Declaration of Pillnitz has fallen prey to this misunderstanding – it actually stated that Austria and Prussia would go to war *only* if all other significant European nations also went to war.

The French, meanwhile, were being quite bellicose. To them, the Declaration of Pillnitz was a direct threat of war, and, furthermore, an insult to the French People. Many in France saw the émigrés being a direct threat to national security. Combined with these threats was a strong national desire to ‘spread the revolution.’ Many saw war with the other powers to spread republicanism and the rights of man as a moral imperative, and there was also the belief that the national honor of the young republic depended on success in war.

This was all key to Napoleon’s early popularity. His stunning military victories in Italy brought glory, riches and peace while spreading French influence. While his Egyptian voyage was not such a success, that didn’t prevent him from spinning it as such. Strong popularity, propaganda and a weak/corrupt government resulted in Napoleon being placed as First Consul of France. This was later extended to First Consul for life, and finally Emperor.

While France had a continued interest in war, the other nations – particularly Great Britain – were at equal or greater fault for the continuation of hostilities. Great Britain initiated war in 1803, and Austria and Russia joined them in 1805. The victories the French attained, and thus the favorable peace terms enacted, in the War of the Third Coalition and further wars to come were thus largely based in national security and prestige. Client states and forcefully disarmed nations aren’t quite as much a threat, and French revolutionary ideas were able to spread as its people desired. In order to wage economic warfare against Britain, Napoleon set up the Continental System. The basic idea of this was to cut Britain off from trading with continental Europe, though it did not see huge success. Portugal and Russia’s violations of the system were used by Napoleon as the reason for his Iberian and Russian invasions.

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