Napoleon Bonaparte

Ch apter 13

Napoleon Bonaparte
French Military and Political Leader

Napoleon Bonaparte was a military leader and eventually emperor of France whose
conquests determined much of the European geopolitical landscape during the late
18th and early 19th centuries. He may be the best example to demonstrate that major
events are determined by the personal drive and leadership of men and women rather
than by environmental forces such as economics and geography. Napoleon was a
highly talented opportunist who took advantage of the French Revolution to propel
himself into a position of great power. He used force and political maneuvering to

expand his power throughout Europe. He also made significant contributions to
judicial law and public administration. He is credited with cultural advances, many of
which resulted from art works that were looted by his armies and brought to France.
His military campaigns demonstrated true genius at strategy and tactics and are
studied in military academies throughout the world.
Napoleon was born in 1769 on the island of Corsica, just one year after France
obtained the island from the city state of Genoa. At age 9 he benefitted from family
connections and obtained an appointment to the royal military school in France. This
was followed by four years at the military college and one year at the officers'
academy in Paris. At 16 years of age he became a professional military officer in the
French king's army, specializing in artillery. He was gifted in mathematics and
learned to take a calculative approach in effectively planning military campaigns and
in placing and using cannons during battle. He also became a master at map reading
and was able to visualize and exploit terrain to develop battle strategies better than
any other officer. His father died the same year he was commissioned, and he took
charge of the family with seven siblings.
The next few years he returned to Corsica several times, occasionally...