Napoleon and Europe, 1799 - 1815 - HI6024

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn and Spring
View Timetable
6 60 (30) DR AA Caiani




Please note that this module is not available to students studying on a short-credit basis (i.e., Erasmus and term/year abroad students).



A decade ago John Dunne, in a review article, described Napoleonic history as a poor relation of the French Revolution that seemed on the verge of ‘making good.’ These prophetic words described well the growing interest among scholars in Bonaparte’s ambitious Imperial mission extending beyond France’s ‘natural frontiers.’ The work of historians Stuart Woolf and Michael Broers has postulated that the Napoleonic mission to 'integrate Europe under a single system of governance' could be viewed as a form of 'cultural imperialism in a European setting.' This special subject will introduce students to the pros and cons of this historiographical debate. It will give final year students an alternative means of engaging with the familiar historical category of ‘Empire.’ There is no shortage of source material translated into English relating to this period. Indeed the memorial de Saint Helene has been available to the Anglophone world since 1824. Consequently a critical and in-depth engagement with primary material will be one of the priorities of this special subject. The focus on French expansion abroad, in the early nineteenth century, challenges one to move away from understanding the Napoleonic Empire in national terms; this course in essence, by its very nature, is European in both scope and content. To do this it will explore processes of acculturation and international competition on a thematic basis. It will examine, in broad multi-national manner, the complex interaction between centre and periphery or what Italians, more prosaically, describe as conflict between ‘stato reale’ and ‘stato civile.’ Napoleon was his own best advocate when it came to forging his posthumous legacy. Students will be encouraged to appraise critically his memoirs and understand that behind claims of progress lay a brutal struggle for the fiscal military resources of Europe. Yet, even more important will be to consider that while the military and political effects of the ‘grand Empire’ were ephemeral, it created a judicial and administrative edifice which survived well beyond 1815 and continues to shape European civilisation to this day. Of course, laws do not merely structure the powers of governmental action but have a complex impact on notions of citizenship, the economy and culture (especially family life). This special subject will investigate the Napoleonic Empire in its many facets. Students will be urged actively to pursue their individual interests in either war and society, Empire, political culture and/or gender.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

1. Introduction: In the beginning was Revolution
2. From Bonaparte to Napoleon, Brumaire 1799
3. The Consulate: A Parliamentary Regime or Security State?
4. Religion and the Concordat
5. The Birth of the Empire, End of the Revolution?
6. Imperial Society: Elites, Law and Administration
7. Writing week
8. War (I): Military Society
9. War (II): Battles & Conquest
10. The Quest for Legitimacy: Court, Dynasty, and Emperor
11. The Culture of Glory? Napoleonic cultural patronage and the Arts
12. Writing Week
13. Europe (I): Ravenous Expansionism or Cosmopolitan Empire
14. Europe (II): Diplomacy
15. The persistence and survival of the Old Regime
16. Resistance (I): Bandits, Brigands and Guerrillas
17. Resistance (II): Re-Imagined Communities, Nations and Dynasties
18. Reading Week
19. The Continental Blockade: Economic Conditions under the Empire
20. Russia 1812. Götterdamerung or the Fall of the Empire
21. The Hundred Days: a Liberal Empire? & The Legacy: Legend, Myth and Propaganda
22. Mock Gobbets
23. Take-home test
24. Writing Week


Please note that this module is only available to single-honours and joint-honours students on the BA History and BA War Studies/Military History programmes. It is not available as a Wild module, nor is it available to short-credit students.

Method of assessment

This module will be assessed by coursework and examination in a 40% coursework and 60% exam ratio.

The coursework component will be assessed as follows:
• 3 x 3000 word essays, each worth 20% of the coursework mark (each worth 8% of the total mark).
• One 1000 word take-home test, worth 20% of the coursework mark (8% of the total mark).
• A 15 minute presentation, worth 20% of the coursework mark (8% of the total mark).

The examination component will be assessed by two 2-hour exams (each worth 30% of the total mark).

Preliminary reading

• Michael Broers, Europe under Napoleon 1799-1815 (London, 1996)
• Connelly, Owen, Napoleon's satellite kingdoms managing conquered peoples (Malabar, 1990)
• Geoffrey Ellis, The Napoleonic Empire (London, 1991)
• Clive Emsley, Napoleon conquest, reform and reorganisation (London, 2003)
• Alan Forrest and Philip Dwyer, Napoleon and His Empire, Europe, 1804-1813
• Alexander Garb, Napoleon and the Transformation of Europe (Basingstoke, 2003)
• Stuart Woolf, Napoleon's integration of Europe (London, 1991)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

11. The intended subject specific learning outcomes
By taking this module, students will
11.1 Acquire a deep awareness of the factual material and analytical tools necessary to understand the nature & mission of the Napoleonic Empire and its trans-European impact.
11.2 Gain a critical understanding of France’s constantly evolving military and diplomatic priorities.
11.3 Obtain knowledge of the most important political and military turning points of the period, and some of the historiographical battles waged around the subject.
11.4 Develop their ability to discuss the analytical and conceptual problems raised in the special subject, and to present their work in written and oral form.
11.5 Gain an enhanced understanding of the diversity of human cultures, and the effects of Empire on different geographic, political, social and cultural contexts.
11.6 Learn to find, use, critique and evaluate relevant primary sources on the Napoleonic Empire.

12. The intended generic learning outcomes
12.1 Through this course, students will develop a range of intellectual, research and transferable skills. They will come to understand the problems that are inherent in the historical record and the limits within which interpretation is possible
12.2 They will develop critical thought and independence of mind, the capacity to marshal subtle and sophisticated arguments, and the ability to challenge received conclusions
12.3 Students will improve their essay writing and oral presentation skills. They will also learn how to make good use of the relevant library resources and, where necessary, their word processing skills.
12.4 Students will gain transferable skills in the following four areas: communication, improvement in learning, working with others and problem solving

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