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The Period of Napoleonic Wars



The end of the 18th century saw the new war of England with France. This war was a political continuation of the French Revolution and the execution of the French King. The English formed a coalition with Austria, Prussia, Spain and Holland to fight against the French Republic. Republicans got numerous victories over the coalition. All these victories aided to strengthen the power of a new government in France — the Directory. Those victories in important places in Italy let a young French general Napoleon Bonaparte become an idol of the French nation and the master of the Directory. In 1799, Napoleon made himself First Consul — first for ten years, later — till the end of his life. The period of the Consulate was not only the period of Napoleons dictatorship and world fame, but also the period of great European wars and battles.

After the first coalition broke as the result of the defeat of Austria, the second coalition of England with Austria, Russia, Spain, the Kingdom of Naples, Portugal and Turkey was formed by English Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger. During the second coalition (1799—1801) Napoleon was defeated by Russians, soon after which England made peace with France.

In 1804, Napoleon was declared emperor. One of his goals was to invade Britain and add it to Napoleon's European empire. This tension broke into open war and a third coalition of England, Russian, Austria and Sweden was formed in 1804.

Napoleon gathered his army at the French channel port of Boulogne. He buMt roads to protect his soldiers and tried to collect his warships to protect them. All Britain was in great tension about the invasion.

In this tense period the troops of Russian and Austrian allies under the command of Russian general Kutuzov approached the Bavarian border, so Napoleon had to direct his troops to repulse Britain's allies. Now French military operations were confined on European mainland — late in 1805 Napoleon seized Vienna and won a crushing victory over Austria at Austerlitz. The third coalition collapsed.

The wars with Napoleon undermined British economy, as France imposed a continental blockade of the British Isles. Now no French trader or trader of the occupied countries was allowed to deal commercially with Britain and British traders. Britain did the same for France. Britain's commercial dependence on European market meant that British products would find little sale and British economy would soon collapse. However, Napoleon couldn't close all of Europe to the British — European countries turned to smuggling and the British encouraged such traffic.



In 1811, the United States decided to take advantage of the war between England and France and seize Canada. The war between England and the USA broke out in 1812. American invasions of Canada were quickly repulsed by the British, who soon blockaded the American coast. In 1814, a British army captured Washington, the capital of the USA. In the Peace of Ghent in 1814, a peace treaty, which established a status quo, was signed.

In 1812, the wars of Napoleon in Europe were decided by Russia. The heroic resistance of the Russian army and people coupled with severe Russian winter completely destroyed Napoleon's army. Very soon Napoleon collected a new army, but was decisively beaten at the Battle of Nations by a combined force of Austrians, Prussians, and Russians at Leipzig in October 1813. At the beginning of 1814 the allies entered Paris and forced the Emperor to abdicate the throne. Napoleon was banished to Elba and the Bourbon monarchy was restored.

The Allies then settled down at the Congress of Vienna to decide over the spoils of victory. This process was interrupted by the sudden return of Napoleon to France and the Hundred Days Campaign, from March to June 1815, which ended with Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. This was the greatest battle for the Duke of Wellington, who commanded the allied forces. Napoleon became a prisoner of the British and was banished to the island of St Helena, where he spent the rest of his life.

As the result of wars with Napoleon England compensated everything it had lost before — the time of a second Empire came. England secured such strategic key points as Malta, Ceylon, the Cape of Good Hope and many others. Now British products could expand all over the world.





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