Who was Napoleon Bonaparte?

Napoleon Bonaparte by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson

Napoleon Bonaparte by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson

Excluding artists, religious figures, royals with numbers attached, and people from a period or culture in which last names were not commonly used, Napoleon is one of the few historical figures readily identifiable by only his first name. Just who was Napoleon Bonaparte?

Facts about Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte was born in Corsica (a French island off the coast of Italy) on August 15, 1769. He trained as a French artillery officer and led some successful campaigns during the French Revolution. In November 1799 he staged a coup d’état and took over the French government. He was crowned Emperor of the French in December 1804.

Napoleon Bonaparte conquered a large part of Europe, but failed in his attempts to conquer Spain and Russia. In April 1814, he was forced off the throne by a European coalition. Napoleon was exiled to Elba (another island off the Italian coast). He escaped from Elba in February 1815 and returned to France, where he again ruled for a period known as the “Hundred Days.” Once again Napoleon fought the European coalition that was allied against him. He lost the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815. Napoleon was exiled to St. Helena (a remote British island in the South Atlantic), where he died on May 5, 1821.

Opinions about Napoleon run the gamut from worshipful to censorious. Robert Gildea provides a good roundup in “Napoleon: Saint, Sinner or Both?” in the November 2013 issue of History Today.

For more about who Napoleon Bonaparte was, read his biography on History.com or About.com. If this whets your appetite for information about Napoleon’s life and times, dive into these.

Top 10 websites about Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon.org
A treasure trove maintained by the Fondation Napoléon, with a fantastic digital library.

Napoleon Series
Another excellent site, full of Napoleonic goodies.

Napoleonic Society
Website of the International Napoleonic Society, with many scholarly articles and links.

Napoleon Bonaparte: The Podcast
Over 46 hour-long episodes, each covering a period of Napoleon’s life and career.

The McGill University Napoleon Collection
Wonderful collection of prints, monographs, maps, etc.

Napoleon, His Army and Enemies
Armies, battles, strategy, tactics, commanders, uniforms, maps.

Napoleonic Guide
Also military focused.

Napoleon & Empire
The French version of the site is more extensive than the English.

Reflections on a Journey to St. Helena
John Tyrrell’s musings on St. Helena, Napoleon’s exile and English attitudes towards Napoleon.

Société d’Études Historiques Révolutionnaires et Impériales
In French, for diehard researchers, source of documents (archives, objects, listings) devoted to the period 1789-1815. If you don’t read French, you might still enjoy the photo albums on the blog.

Napoleonic Wars Forum
(A bonus #11) Excellent discussion forum focused on the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with lots of useful information and links for those interested in the 1792-1815 period.

If you visit even a few of these, you’ll have no problem answering “who was Napoleon Bonaparte?”

You might also enjoy:

10 Things Napoleon Never Said

10 Napoleon Bonaparte Quotes in Context

What did Napoleon look like?

10 Interesting Facts about Napoleon Bonaparte

What did Napoleon like to read?

What were Napoleon’s last words?

What did Napoleon like to eat and drink?

Napoleon in Alternate History

Napoleon in Historical Fiction

4 commments on “Who was Napoleon Bonaparte?”

  • Pierre says:

    Bonjour Milady 🙂

    That’s a nice website you have. I’d like to point out that
    “French Revolutionary army” is a nonsense, the revolution is just an historical era for historians not a regime. Bonaparte was an officer of the French Republic.

    Did you know that between 1805 and 1808 the French coins were engraved “Napoleon Emperor, French Republic”? That might sound weird as he was crowned in 1804… At first Bonaparte was First Consul of the French Republic, then Napoleon was the Emperor of the French Republic (like Caesar was Emperor of the Roman Republic) and eventually he became Napoleon Emperor of the French Empire. You can learn a lot by the coins.

    Have you heard of the 2003 French-British movie called “Monsieur N.”? It was directed by Antoine de Caunes and its plot shares elements with your “Napoleon in America”. Here’s a Portuguese dubbed version, sorry that’s all I can offer you now http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoi2zJs2_bU

    Regards from France 😉

    • Shannon Selin says:

      Thanks, Pierre. I’m glad you’re enjoying the website. Thanks for the details about the French coins – that’s a great way to keep track of Napoleon’s status in relation to France. I have seen “Monsieur N.” and quite enjoyed it. Another fun speculation on how things might have played out had Napoleon managed to escape from St. Helena. 🙂

  • may says:

    thanks you give good information

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I have been praised with exaggeration, like all sovereigns who have done extraordinary things; but I always knew my intrinsic value.

Napoleon Bonaparte