Napoleonic Wars Essay

Submitted By starbucksgirl25
Words: 1602
Pages: 7

To what extent can Napoleon be considered a great leader?
Napoleon Bonaparte’s leadership can be examined through his ability to both protect and provide for his people. Although Napoleon’s effectiveness as a military leader is evident, his egocentric personal traits prevented him from achieving excellence in all areas of leadership. His rule is characterised by military success, fuelling his self-perpetuated perception of greatness, while also unifying the people of France in support of their leader through various reforms. However through his accentuation of military victories, Napoleon subjected France to a growing number of enemies, evidently assembling his country as a European target. Historians present conflicting views of Napoleon in terms of his persona as a success or a failure, thus they are worthy sources to consider when examining the extent to which Napoleon can be considered as a great leader. Napoleon can definitely be considered an effective leader, but due to certain flaws within his rule, including personal ambition, the extent to which he can be considered a great leader is lessened considerably.
Napoleon’s overriding ambition weakened his ability to provide for and protect his country. Ambition is a necessary trait in a leader, but the extent to which this motivation is channelled into the benefit of the country being ruled, or to satisfy an egotistic ambition is definitely questionable in regards to Napoleon. Napoleonic French scholar Jean Tulard comments that Napoleon strategically conquered France, but had always planned to eventually conquer Europe. His ravenous vision of power and control was especially exposed in his mission to gain a higher position in society. French historian and politician, Adolphe Thiers writing about the Empire from 1823-1827 after Napoleon’s second abdication in July 1815, supports this statement. Thiers argues that the execution of Duc D’Enghien was a strategic murder, opening the position of Emperor up to Napoleon. It appears that he would stop at nothing to gain power. During his years as Emperor, Napoleon was dominantly victorious, but this only encouraged his vision of conquering Europe. British historian, Graham Goodlad indicates that of thirty four battles, only four were lost. The arrogance which flourished in response to these statistics resulted in Napoleon’s refusal of the peace treaty offered by Russia and her allies in 1814. This decision resulted in the fall of Paris on March 31st 1814. Due to the dominance of his ambition, Napoleon failed to protect his country from invasion. While the encouraging and inspirational aspect of his personality was considered to (as a troop of Napoleon, Henri Beyle comments) bring out the best in his troops, this generosity was only to serve the higher purpose of his narcissistic ambition. The focus on military success to satisfy his vision of a united Europe, produced further consequences including the stunted growth of France’s population, in a time when the rest of Europe grew immensely. Military historian, Robert Asprey concludes that he confuses his country’s destiny with his own. This is an unacceptable attribute to have in a leader on which a whole nation relies on, and limits the extent to which we can consider Napoleon a great leader.
Historians have reached a consensus that Napoleon was a competent military leader. Napoleon’s tremendous military knowledge and his record of victories created an aura over the French people, providing unity among the previously torn nation in response to his rule. Graham Goodlad explains that his accomplishments have continued to influence military tactics even today, due to his ability to move troops quickly across the land in preparation for surprise offensive attacks. This emphasis on speed in regards to such a large mass of men would not have been possible if not for his ability to inspire his troops, despite the harsh conditions which surrounded the army. Rotations…