Politics and wars
This decade saw the rise of Napoleon I
, who led the French army to conquer a substantial portion of Europe during this time.
The European political landscape was dominated by the Napoleonic Wars, a series of conflicts declared against Napoleon's First French Empire and changing sets of European allies by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionized European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to the application of modern mass conscription. French power rose quickly, conquering most of Europe by the end of the decade. The decade brought hard times.
On 9 November 1799 (18 Brumaire), Napoleon overthrew the French government, replacing it with the Consulate, in which he was First Consul. On 2 December 1804, after a failed assassination plot, he crowned himself Emperor. In 1805, Napoleon planned to invade Britain, but a renewed British alliance with Russia and Austria (Third Coalition), forced him to turn his attention towards the continent, while at the same time failure to lure the superior British fleet away from the English Channel, ending in a decisive French defeat at the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October put an end to hopes of an invasion of Britain. On 2 December 1805, Napoleon defeated a numerically superior Austro-Russian army at Austerlitz, forcing Austria's withdrawal from the coalition (see Treaty of Pressburg) and dissolving the Holy Roman Empire. In 1806, a Fourth Coalition was set up, on 14 October Napoleon defeated the Prussians at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, marched through Germany and defeated the Russians on 14 June 1807 at Friedland. The Treaties of Tilsit divided Europe between France and Russia and created the Duchy of Warsaw.
The War of the Fifth Coalition, fought in the year 1809, pitted a coalition of the Austrian Empire and the United Kingdom against the French Empire and Bavaria. Major engagements between France and Austria, the main participants, unfolded over much of Central Europe from April to July, with very high casualty rates. Britain, already involved on the European continent in the ongoing Peninsular War, sent another expedition, the Walcheren Campaign, to the Netherlands in order to relieve the Austrians, although this effort had little impact on the outcome of the conflict. After much campaigning in Bavaria and across the Danube valley, the war ended favorably for the French after the bloody struggle at Wagram in early July, resulting in the Treaty of Schönbrunn . Although fighting in the Iberian Peninsula continued, the War of the Fifth Coalition was the last major conflict on the European continent until the French invasion of Russia in 1812 sparked the Sixth Coalition.
Other wars and political upheavals
This decade marked the height of the Atlantic slave trade to the United States. During the period of 1798 and 1808, approximately 200,000 slaves were imported from Africa to the United States. Still, the abolitionist movement began to gain ground in this period. Britain enacted the Slave Trade Act 1807, which barred the trade of slaves in Great Britain (though slavery was still legal). The United States enacted a similar ban in 1808. However, Napoleon revoked the French Empire's ban on slavery with the Law of 20 May 1802.
Prominent political events