Views regarding if Napoleon offered virtuous benefits to the subjects of his Empire are fraught with different view points. Interpretations B and C both agree with the viewpoint that Napoleon offered very little benefit to his subjects, “The ideals of legal equality… social designs”, interpretation. Conversely, interpretations A and D support the opposite idea that being part of the Napoleonic Empire was actually very beneficial to the subjects, “liberated from seigniorial rights”; “Even the downsides such as… for a centralized state”. Taking all interpretations into consideration and actual knowledge of the Napoleonic Empire, it is easy to see that while Napoleon ruled with an iron fist, he did indeed offer several benefits to subjects of his Empire directly or indirectly which both can be seen in Poland by the use of Napoleon in their national hymn of living up to ‘us and Napoleon’ interpretation D.
Both interpretations, A and D, show clear disagreement with the view that Napoleon was of little benefit to European subjects after 1804. Firstly interpretation A shows this with “Napoleon saw the Civil Code… the Civil Code everywhere.” This contradicts interpretation B’s view of Napoleon as a “warrior overlord”, because he strengthens satellite states with his Civil Code by removing the remnants of feudalism, which would increase their political power inside the Napoleonic Empire. Interpretation D also shows disagreement by saying “the French presence tended to flush out the old regime.”
Several nations within Europe, such as Poland and Austria, still operated on a bastardized feudalism, which was proving to be ineffectual compared to newer set of political and military customs being used in other European countries. Napoleon’s Civil Code helped to eradicate feudalism within the satellite states. Although, interpretation B argues that even with this, feudalism still existed in a different of form of “nobles’ privileges, seigneurial dues, serfdom and even labour services.” The nature of the political reforms regarding the structure of the government would not be truly appreciated until the emergence of the next government, who were able to fully utilise the setup Napoleon had created in their nation. Interpretation A also shows benefits economically, “Unification was also economic. The Empire represented a market of 80 million.” Trading between countries was becoming almost essential to the economies of nations in Europe, being part of the Empire would help greatly to ensure trade between not only the subject and France, but also other subjects in the Empire, leading to more economic development, and benefit for subjects.
However, Napoleon also ensured all subjects were part of the Continental blockade against Britain. British trade was extremely important, due to Britain’s overwhelming influence in the east and outside of Europe. While not a subject, Russia withdrew from the continental blockade in 1812, causing a war between Russia and France. Showing how important British trade is and how constricting the France market is. However, France still having a heavy influence within Europe would prove to be more beneficial than trading with the British.
Even the negatives of being in the Napleonic Empire such as conscription, did have a benefit eventually, “Even the downsides… of their rights.” Conscription and heavy policing helped to create the foundations for a centralized state for later governments to use. The usefulness of this is evident by the fact that the Civil Code was used to form the private laws systems of Spain, Portugal and other subjects. Also, Napoleon appeared to his subjects as a defender of their rights, meaning that they saw him positively because of the supposed negatives of the Napoleonic Empire. Interpretation A supports this view, “Besides, conscription… with a different language.” Conscription in the Empire is helping to increase communication between different nationalities with different languages.
Interpretation C, while shown as an interpretation that agrees with the view, does show some benefits offered by Napoleon, “The methods…Restoration governments.” As mentioned in interpretation D, the Napoleonic Empire helped to lay the foundation for future governments to use successfully. Showing that, once again the benefits of the Napoleonic Empire would not be appreciated until after Napoleon’s reign.
So overall, interpretation D is the more useful of the disagreeing interpretations as it mentions a wider spectrum benefits that Napleon offered, from modernization to nationalism, while also staying useful to answering the question throughout the interpretation. While also, explaining the negatives of the Napoleonic Empire fully as well as their actual benefits.
Interpretations B and C both agree with the view that Napoleon’s Empire did indeed offer little to his subjects. Interpretation B shows that Napoleon merely views his subjects as a stepping stone for his own mechanizations, “The ideals of…social designs.” As the interpretation suggests, Napoleon only uses his subjects as a means of funding his military and fiscal needs. Likewise, newly acquired nations were used to extend his Bonaparte dynasty across Europe, which is evident by the appointment of Napoleon’s ineffective sister as the king of turbulent Spain. Interpretation A, while grouped as disagreeing, shows that Napoleon always put France above the subjects, “The key to the Napoleonic…French industry.” While the Empire had a market of 80 million, all of the subjects had to come behind French industry. For example, the Kingdom of Italy’s industry for manufactured products and which is suffered economically for.
Interpretation B supports the view that while Napoleon helped to end feudalism technically, he encouraged it in principle, “Feudalism, though…even labour services.” The end of feudalism can be linked directly to the use of the Civil Code within the Empire. Interpretation A shows this, “Napoleon saw the…Civil Code everywhere.” The Civil Code spelt the end of the feudalism, but it was not imposed in every subject’s nation. Meaning that, feudalism did indeed still exist within the Empire, but only when it was beneficial for Napoleon to not impose the Civil Code in that nation. Leading to the assumption that the Empire brought more benefits to countries that would bring benefit back to France. Nations that could give Napoleon the military and other resources he wanted had the Civil Code imposed upon them to make it easier to collect this. Interpretation D has the general view that the Empire benefits were for the greater good of the nations within it, “In most European…in the long run.” The subjects under Napoleon may not have benefited under him, only after the dissolution of the Empire did the ex-subjects of the Empire benefit. Meaning that the benefits the Napoleonic Empire offered were mainly long term benefits.
Interpretation B mentions the end of feudalism with the Civil Code, “While there is…social designs.” Interpretation B shows clearly that while Napoleon was greatly reforming regarding France, within the Empire’s subject states this reforming attitude was put second behind his need of the subject states for his military and dynastic ambitions. As mentioned in interpretation A, Napoleon only introduced the Civil Code to subjects that would he felt would lead to greater yield for his conscription and taxation, which is mentioned by C. The Civil Code was also used to nurture the growth of the industrial powerful class the bourgeois,”A new society…powerful class.” Interestingly, interpretation B mentions that “rebellious Spain…at best tenuous,” Spain lacked an influential bourgeois class, meaning that the Civil Code was ineffective in states that had a lacking bourgeois class. Showing that only certain subject states, that had already started to industrialize past feudalism, would benefit as a member of Napoleonic Empire.
Interpretation D shows that Napoleon concentrated heavily on taxation and conscription, “The latter…administration problem”. Interpretation D supports the view that the Empire’s subject nations were merely a means to maintaining his army and namely the Napoleonic Empire. As interpretation A also suggests with calling Napoleon ‘reminiscent of a warrior overlord’. Showing that both interpretations have the same view of Napoleon only benefiting subject states in order to increase their wealth and therefore taxation or ability to supply troops.
Which interpretation C also describes, “Indeed one can… had not struck deep roots” the more useful the nation was to Napoleon; the further it was amalgamated into the Empire. Explaining why the earlier, more useful for Napoleon at that time, nations proved to benefit more under the Empire. Kingdom of Spain was the last acquisition to the Napoleonic Empire and the main reason for that was to extend Napoleon’s continental blockade against Britain. Meaning Spain just had to be part of the Empire, not necessarily a useful one. However, Interpretation A disagrees with this view, “The Civil Code…in all dependant kingdoms.” Both these interpretations together, have the view that while all the dependant kingdoms and annexed territories had the Civil Code introduced, it does not mean that it was truly used as efficiently as it could have been. Interpretation C is more useful for answering the question than interpretation B, due to the fact that it both shows disagreement and agreement with the view that Napoleon offered little benefit to his subjects. The interpretation also shows that while people may not have benefited under the direct Empire, they benefited later. For example the interpretation mentions the eradication of small non-viable states in Europe.
Interpretations A and D both mention the growth of nationalism inside the subjects of the Napoleonic Empire. To start interpretation A has the view that Nationalism was purposely allowed to flourish within the Empire, “there was no attempt to destroy the soul of conquered provinces.” Subjects of the Empire didn’t have to adopt a French regime. Coupled with the general hate of any occupying force in a country, allowed nationalism to easily grow and spread throughout countries within the Empire. Also, interpretation C mentions the rise of nationalism subtly, “by eliminating…consolidating yet others.” Napoleon extending borders eradicated certain cultures and made them apart of a bigger nation.
This leads to a subject state’s collective nationalistic resentment of Napoleon, which does lead eventually to a degree of national identity among the subject nations that has not been previously seen. Interpretation D also shows nationalism with, “As for Poland… national imagination.” Poland having been through a turbulent time of constant loss of national identity since 1795, greatly benefited through nationalism which only the Napoleonic Empire offered to them. Interpretation A reveals that the annexed territories were allowed to maintain a degree of national identity, “In annexed territories…second language.” This could mean several things, firstly that the annexed territories were allowed to keep a set identity for themselves which is indeed good for encouraging nationalism in a country. However, not changing the teaching practises of a subject nation could mean that Napoleon intended for the annexed subject nations to remain politically weak in the Empire. Learning polish as a language would be essential to the communications between the two countries, by not making French obligatory, Napoleon keeps the annexed states in a position of dependency on France for communication.
Ultimately, the interpretations support the view that the subjects under Napoleon’s Empire did not merely gain little benefits and instead were offered great benefits that were utilised by the subject states. Interpretations C and D view the benefits generally as something that would not be truly appreciated till after the fall of the first French Empire. Interpretations A and B share the view that for the Empire to offer benefits, it had to have several drawbacks, such as certain states not having the Civil Code fully imposed and Napoleon putting his social and dynastic motives before the well being of the subject state. However, this does not change the fact that benefits were offered. Interpretations C and D proved to be the most useful for deciding if Napoleon did only offer little benefit to subjects after 1804, with C proving to be the more useful of the two. Interpretations A and B only concentrated on the benefits that were offered directly by being part of the Empire and not other indirect benefits.