Napoleon Bonaparte was, without a doubt, one of the most prominent leaders in history. His remarkable innovations in leadership and warfare made him an indisputable master of combat. Throughout his fairly brief, but influential reign, he conquered many states and countries and shaping Europe into what it is today. Napoleon’s conquest of both Italy and Germany greatly impacted the two countries and heavily influenced various aspects of their government and social sphere.
The Kingdom of Italy was an important historical landmark that greatly influenced modern-day Italy.
As is described in the PBS documentary, the French imposed a series of government advancements, such a centralized administration and a national civil code, that are the core of Italian government today. Another major change that came from Napoleon’s conquest was the development of a definitive middle class through the improvement of economics. Transportation and trade was greatly expanded, with products such as in the leather, linen, and wool becoming major exports. Overall, all of these improvements made the Italian people initially view Napoleon as more of a liberator than a conqueror.
However, towards the end of Napoleon’s reign, the Italian people began to rebel in the forms of gangs called the “carbonari”, advocating for independence from French rule. With the various developments of economics and government, a hope of a united and prosperous nation emerged within the people of Italy, thus initiating the rise of nationalism.
Another country that was heavily impacted by Napoleon’s conquest was Germany. One of the most prominent impacts was the rapid growth of German nationalism.
As is stated in “The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures” by Lynn Hunt, Napoleon consolidated the many tiny German states into several larger ones. After this change, the German states realised that being divided made them vulnerable to attackers such as Napoleon, and this thus spurred ideas of national pride. Another reason the people of Germany began to want to drive out Napoleon was that Germany’s economy suffered. Napoleon’s continental blockade that attempted to prohibit British goods only fueled smugglers and contraband trade. After 1815, when British goods were allowed into the markets, Germans were heavily affected by inflation and heavy taxation; as is stated in “The Making of the West: Peoples and Cultures”, “Tax increases and ever rising conscription fermented disconnect as well” (Hunt 801). Along with the German princes’ spurring for the formation of an army to defeat Napoleon, nationalism spread like wildfire and eventually lead to Napoleon’s demise. Thus, Napoleon’s impact in Germany, which was the instigation of the growth of nationalism, the worsening of the economy, and the change in borders, was also what lead to his downfall.
Overall, Napoleon’s victory over Germany and France had a huge impact on various facets of their society. Each conquest brought its own advances to the two countries. While Italy saw the boom of the middle class and the development of a self-sustaining economy, Germany experienced a rise in nationalism that would help its people unite and from a singular nation. As is, from political to geographical, each change Napoleon imposed on the countries has had a major consequence for modern day Europe.