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“Ambition is never content, even on the summit of greatness.”
Napoleon Bonaparte
Emperor of the French, 1769 - 1821

Napoleon Bonaparte was born on August 15, 1769 in Ajaccio on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, the son of Carlo and Letizia Bonaparte. Through his military exploits and his ruthless efficiency, Napoleon rose from obscurity to become Napoleon I, Empereur des Francais (Emperor of the French). He is both a historical figure and a legend—and it is sometimes difficult to separate the two. The events of his life fired the imaginations of great writers, film makers, and playwrights whose works have done much to create the Napoleonic legend.

Napoleon decided on a military career when he was a child, winning a scholarship to a French military academy at age 14. His meteoric rise shocked not only France but all of Europe, and his military conquests threatened the stability of the world.

Napoleon was one of the greatest military commanders in history. He has also been portrayed as a power hungry conqueror. Napoleon denied those accusations. He argued that he was building a federation of free peoples in a Europe united under a liberal government. But if this was his goal, he intended to achieve it by taking power in his own hands. However, in the states he created, Napoleon granted constitutions, introduced law codes, abolished feudalism, created efficient governments and fostered education, science, literature and the arts.

Emperor Napoleon proved to be an excellent civil administrator. One of his greatest achievements was his supervision of the revision and collection of French law into codes. The new law codes—seven in number—incorporated some of the freedoms gained by the people of France during the French revolution, including religious toleration and the abolition of serfdom. The most famous of the codes, the Code Napoleon or Code Civil, still forms the basis of French civil law. Napoleon also centralized France's government by appointing prefects to administer regions called departments, into which France was divided.

While Napoleon believed in government "for" the people, he rejected government "by" the people. His France was a police state with a vast network of secret police and spies. The police shut down plays containing any hint of disagreement or criticism of the government. The press was controlled by the state. It was impossible to express an opinion without Napoleon's approval.

Napoleon's own opinion of his career is best stated in the following quotation:

“I closed the gulf of anarchy and brought order out of chaos. I rewarded merit regardless of birth or wealth, wherever I found it. I abolished feudalism and restored equality to all regardless of religion and before the law. I fought the decrepit monarchies of the Old Regime because the alternative was the destruction of all this. I purified the Revolution.”

If you are aware of books, movies, databases, web sites or other information sources about Napoleon Bonaparte or related subjects, or if you would like to comment, please contact us.

Resource Menu
Books About Napoleon I

The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte The Rise Of Napoleon Bonaparte
by Robert Asprey

In The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, the first volume of a two-volume cradle-to-grave biography, Robert Asprey treats Napoleon as a human being, telling this fascinating, tragic tale in lush narrative detail.

Purchase this paperback edition of The Rise Of Napoleon Bonaparte

The Reign of Napoleon Bonaparte The Reign of Napoleon Bonaparte
by Robert Asprey

Robert Asprey completes his definitive, two-volume biography with an intimate, fast-paced look at Napoleon's daring reign and tragic demise with more of the personality and passion that marked the first volume of this cradle to the grave biography.

Purchase this paperback edition of The Reign of Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte Napoleon Bonaparte
by J. M. Thompson and Norman Hampson

A reissue of a thirty year old work that is one of the best researched and written biographies of Napoleon available.

Purchase this paperback edition of Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Napoleon: A Penguin Life
by Paul Johnson

An "unromantic," "skeptical," and "searching" study of a person who exercised power "only for a decade and a half" but whose "impact on the future lasted until nearly the end of the twentieth century."—Library Journal

Purchase this hardcover edition of Napoleon: A Penguin Life

Imperial Glory Imperial Glory: The Bulletins of Napoleon's Grand Armee
by J. David Markham

The bulletins herein, covering the period from 1805 to 1815, describe military operations, pick out distinguished officers and units, and present Napoleon's own interpretation of battles lost or won.

Purchase this paperback edition of Imperial Glory

The Military Maxims of Napoleon The Military Maxims of Napoleon
by William E. Cairnes

David Chandler updates Cairnes 1901 collection of Napoleon's military maxims.

Purchase this paperback edition of The Military Maxims of Napoleon

Napoleon's Glance Napoleon's Glance: The Secret of Strategy
by William Duggan

Pop business meets military and intellectual history in this intriguing study of strategizing as a habit of being.— Kirkus Reviews

Purchase this hardcover edition of Napoleon's Glance

Josephine Josephine: Napoleon's Incomparable Empress
by Eleanor P. Delorme

This spirited biography, rich in detail and anecdote, brings to life Napoleon's incomparable Josephine.

Purchase this hardcover edition of Josephine

DVDs About Napoleon Bonaparte

Citizen King Empires - Napoleon
Produced by PBS

From his birth on the rugged island of Corsica to his final exile on the godforsaken island of St. Helena, Napoleon brings this extraordinary figure to life.

Purchase this DVD edition of Empires - Napoleon

Martin Luther King Jr. - I Have a Dream Napoleon: The Myth, The Battles, The Legends
Produced by BFS Entertainment

From the glory of his empire to his defeat at Waterloo and miserable exile on Elba, here is an entertaining and complete portrait of an extraordinary life.

Purchase this video edition of Napoleon: The Myth, The Battles, The Legends

Martin Luther King: Historical Perspective Napoleon (TV Miniseries)
Produced by A&E Home Video

The year is 1816. Napoleon, held prisoner by the British on the island of St. Helena, is telling the young English girl Betsy his life story.

Purchase this DVD edition of Napoleon (TV Miniseries)

Related Websites

The Napoleon Series
An Electronic Magazine dedicated to Napoleon and his times.

The Napoleonic Guide
Everything you need to know about the life and times of Napoleon Bonaparte.

A multi-faceted site about Napoleon and his epoch-making period of history.

Companion webpages to the PBS Series

Napoleon Bonaparte: The Little Corporal who built an Empire
At the BBC History Webpages

Napoleonic History
The website of Napoleon scholar, J. David Markham

Napoleon 1er - Empereur des français
Napoleon Page in French, English, Russian and Spanish

The battle of Waterloo 1815
A virtual tour of the battlefield

Napoleon Bonaparte's Farewell to the Old Guard
On April 20, 1814 the Emperor of France and would-be ruler of Europe said goodbye
to the Old Guard after his failed invasion of Russia and defeat by the Allies.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Other Monarchs in the Lucidcafé Library

Other Military Figures in the Lucidcafé Library

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