Napoleonic Wars

27.03.2015 |

Episode #10 of the course “Biggest wars in history”


Date: 1799 – 1815

Location: Europe, Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean

Estimated casualties: 3,500,000 – 7,000,000

Many wars are simply about taking over more people and more land and not just about political or religious beliefs. In the Napoleonic Wars, for example, it seems that Napoleon Bonaparte simply wanted to gain additional land by taking over various European nations. This period lasted from 1799 to 1815 and affected virtually all of Europe, even involving the United States, Egypt, and South America.

Napoleon’s first strike is known as the War of the First Coalition, and it lasted for about four years (1793 to 1797). It is commonly referred to as an extension of the French Revolution. Basically, the largest powers in Europe were attempting to undo the outcome of the Revolution and restore the French monarchy to power. Although Napoleon was not yet the leader of France, his successes as a commander here set the stage for his reign in years to come.

The Second Coalition resulted in French victories led by Napoleon over Britain, Russia, and Austria. This took place in 1798. A Third Coalition developed that consisted of Britain, Russia, Sweden, and Austria in 1805, and again Napoleon’s forces defeated them in the Battle of Jena in 1806. Shortly thereafter, France took over Spain, and Napoleon placed his brother Joseph Bonaparte as the king, which sparked a revolt. Eventually the Spanish drove the French out of Spain.

Napoleon decided to invade Russia even as his troops were still dealing with the situation in Spain in 1812. Although he was awarded some early victories, his army was eventually defeated, in great part because of the weather. He was then exiled, but he returned briefly in an attempt to regain power. He again staged a war against the British forces—which included German, Belgian, and Dutch troops—but he did not prevail. He was exiled again and died just six years later.


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