Napoleonic Wars

Napoleonic Wars
Top: The Battle of Austerlitz
Bottom: The Battle of Waterloo
Date18 May 1803 – 20 November 1815 (1803-05-18 – 1815-11-20)
(12 years, 5 months and 4 weeks)
ResultNapoleon Defeated/Coalition victory
Congress of Vienna
France and allies:
French First Republic French Republic (1792–1804)
First French Empire French Empire (1804–1815)

Commanders and leaders
  • 900,000 Russian regulars, cossacks and militia at peak strength[20]
  • 750,000 British under arms in total
  • 250,000 British regulars and militia at peak strength[21]
  • 320,000 Prussian regulars and militia at peak strength[22]
  • Unknown numbers of Austrians, Spaniards, Portuguese, Swedish and other coalition members
  • 3,000,000 French under arms in total
  • 1,200,000 French regulars and militia at peak strength[23]
  • 685,000 French and allied regulars at peak strength[24]
Casualties and losses
  • Italians: 120,000 killed or missing[25]
  • Spanish: more than 300,000 military deaths[25] — more than 586,000 killed[26]
  • Portuguese: up to 250,000 dead or missing[27]
  • British: 32,232 killed in action[28]
  • British: 279,574 killed by wounds, disease, accidents and other causes[28]
  • Russian: 289,000 killed in action[29]
  • Prussian: 134,000 killed in action[29]
  • Austrian: 550,220 killed in action (1792–1815)[30][29]
  • Ottoman: 50,000 killed or missing [31]
  • 371,000 killed in action[32]
  • 800,000 killed by disease, wounds, accidents and other causes[33]
  • 600,000 civilians killed[33]
  • 65,000 French allies killed[33]
  1. ^ 1805, 1809, 1813–1815
  2. ^ 1804–1807, 1812–1815
  3. ^ 1806–1807, 1813–1815
  4. ^ 1808–1815
  5. ^ 1800–1807, 1809–1815
  6. ^ 1804–1809, 1812–1815
  7. ^ a b c d 1807–1812
  8. ^ 1806–1815
  9. ^ 1809
  10. ^ a b c 1813–1815
  11. ^ a b c d e 1815
  12. ^ 1806–1807, 1813–1814
  13. ^ 1808–1813
  14. ^ 1803–1808
  15. ^ 1807–1814
  16. ^ 1806–1809
  17. ^ 1809–1813
  18. ^ 1804–1807, 1812–1813
  19. ^ 1810–1812
  20. ^ a b until the eve of the Battle of Leipzig, 1813
  21. ^ until 1813

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict. The wars are often categorised into five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1805), the Fourth (1806–07), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813), and the Seventh (1815).

Napoleon, upon ascending to First Consul of France in 1799, had inherited a chaotic republic; he subsequently created a state with stable finances, a strong bureaucracy, and a well-trained army. In 1805, Austria and Russia started the Third Coalition and waged war against France. In response, Napoleon defeated the allied Russo-Austrian army at Austerlitz in December 1805, which is considered his greatest victory. At sea, the British severely defeated the joint Franco-Spanish navy in the Battle of Trafalgar on 21 October 1805. This victory secured British control of the seas and prevented the invasion of Britain itself. Concerned about increasing French power, Prussia led the creation of the Fourth Coalition with Russia, Saxony and Sweden, and the resumption of war in October 1806. Napoleon quickly defeated the Prussians in Jena and the Russians in Friedland, bringing an uneasy peace to the continent. The peace failed, though, as war broke out in 1809, when the badly prepared Fifth Coalition, led by Austria, was quickly defeated in Wagram.

Hoping to isolate Britain economically, Napoleon launched an invasion of Portugal, the only remaining British ally in continental Europe. After occupying Lisbon in November 1807, and with the bulk of French troops present in Spain, Napoleon seized the opportunity to turn against his former ally, depose the reigning Spanish Bourbon family and declare his brother King of Spain in 1808 as Joseph I. The Spanish and Portuguese revolted with British support and expelled the French from Iberia in 1814 after six years of fighting.

Concurrently, Russia, unwilling to bear economic consequences of reduced trade, routinely violated the Continental System, enticing Napoleon to launch a massive invasion of Russia in 1812. The resulting campaign ended with the dissolution and disastrous withdrawal of the French Grande Armée.

Encouraged by the defeat, Prussia, Austria, and Russia formed the Sixth Coalition and began a new campaign against France, decisively defeating Napoleon at Leipzig in October 1813 after several inconclusive engagements. The Allies then invaded France from the east, while the Peninsular War spilled over into southwestern France. Coalition troops captured Paris at the end of March 1814 and forced Napoleon to abdicate in early April. He was exiled to the island of Elba, and the Bourbons were restored to power. However, Napoleon escaped in February 1815, and reassumed control of France. The Allies responded with the Seventh Coalition, defeating Napoleon permanently at Waterloo in June 1815 and exiling him to St Helena, where he died six years later.[34]

The Congress of Vienna redrew the borders of Europe, and brought a period of relative peace. The wars had profound consequences on global history, including the spread of nationalism and liberalism, the rise of the British Empire as the world's foremost power, the appearance of independence movements in Latin America and subsequent collapse of the Spanish Empire, the fundamental reorganisation of German and Italian territories into larger states, and the establishment of radically new methods of conducting warfare.


Napoleon seized power in 1799, creating a de facto military dictatorship.[35] There are a number of opinions on the date to use as the formal beginning of the Napoleonic Wars; 18 May 1803 is often used, when Britain and France ended the only short period of peace between 1792 and 1814.[36] The Napoleonic Wars began with the War of the Third Coalition, which was the first of the Coalition Wars against the First French Republic after Napoleon's accession as leader of France.

Britain ended the Treaty of Amiens and declared war on France in May 1803. Among the reasons were Napoleon's changes to the international system in Western Europe, especially in Switzerland, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. Kagan argues that Britain was irritated in particular by Napoleon's assertion of control over Switzerland. Furthermore, Britons felt insulted when Napoleon stated that their country deserved no voice in European affairs, even though King George III was an elector of the Holy Roman Empire. For its part, Russia decided that the intervention in Switzerland indicated that Napoleon was not looking toward a peaceful resolution of his differences with the other European powers.[36]

The British hastily enforced a naval blockade of France to starve it of resources. Napoleon responded with economic embargoes against Britain, and sought to eliminate Britain's Continental allies to break the coalitions arrayed against him. The so-called Continental System formed a league of armed neutrality to disrupt the blockade and enforce free trade with France. The British responded by capturing the Danish fleet, breaking up the league, and later secured dominance over the seas, allowing it to freely continue its strategy. Napoleon won the War of the Third Coalition at Austerlitz, forcing the Austrian Empire out of the war and formally dissolving the Holy Roman Empire. Within months, Prussia declared war, triggering a War of the Fourth Coalition. This war ended disastrously for Prussia, defeated and occupied within 19 days of the beginning of the campaign. Napoleon subsequently defeated the Russian Empire at Friedland, creating powerful client states in Eastern Europe and ending the fourth coalition.

Concurrently, the refusal of Portugal to commit to the Continental System, and Spain's failure to maintain it, led to the Peninsular War and the outbreak of the War of the Fifth Coalition. The French occupied Spain and formed a Spanish client kingdom, ending the alliance between the two. Heavy British involvement in the Iberian Peninsula soon followed, while a British effort to capture Antwerp failed. Napoleon oversaw the situation in Iberia, defeating the Spanish, and expelling the British from the Peninsula. Austria, keen to recover territory lost during the War of the Third Coalition, invaded France's client states in Eastern Europe. Napoleon defeated the fifth coalition at Wagram.

Attempts to disrupt the British blockade led to the United States declaring war on Britain, while grievances over control of Poland, and Russia's withdrawal from the Continental System, led to Napoleon invading Russia in June 1812. The invasion was an unmitigated disaster for Napoleon; scorched earth tactics, desertion, French strategic failures and the onset of the Russian winter compelled Napoleon to retreat with massive losses. Napoleon suffered further setbacks; French power in the Iberian Peninsula was broken at Battle of Vitoria the following summer, and a new coalition began the War of the Sixth Coalition.

The coalition defeated Napoleon at Leipzig, precipitating his fall from power and eventual abdication on 6 April 1814. The victors exiled Napoleon to Elba and restored the Bourbon monarchy. Napoleon escaped from Elba in 1815, gathering enough support to overthrow the monarchy of Louis XVIII, triggering a seventh, and final, coalition against him. Napoleon was decisively defeated at Waterloo, and he abdicated again on 22 June. On 15 July, he surrendered to the British at Rochefort, and was exiled to Saint Helena, where he died in 1821. The Treaty of Paris, signed on 20 November 1815, formally ended the war.

The Bourbon monarchy was restored once more, and the victors began the Congress of Vienna, to restore peace to the continent. As a direct result of the war, the Kingdom of Prussia rose to become a great power on the continent,[37] while Great Britain, with its unequalled Royal Navy and growing Empire became the world's dominant superpower, beginning the Pax Britannica.[38] The Holy Roman Empire was dissolved, and the philosophy of nationalism, that emerged early in the war, greatly contributed to the later unification of the German states, and those of the Italian peninsula. The war in Iberia greatly weakened Spanish power, and the Spanish Empire began to unravel; Spain would lose nearly all of its American possessions by 1833. The Portuguese Empire began a rapid decline, with Brazil declaring independence in 1822.[8]

The wars revolutionised European warfare; the application of mass conscription and total war led to campaigns of unprecedented scale, as whole nations committed all their economic and industrial resources to a collective war effort.[39] Tactically, the French Army redefined the role of artillery, while Napoleon emphasised mobility to offset numerical disadvantages,[40] and aerial surveillance was used for the first time in warfare.[41] While not a new tactic, the highly successful Spanish guerrillas demonstrated the capability of a people driven by fervent nationalism, liberalism and religious fundamentalism against an occupying force.[42] Due to the longevity of the wars, and the extent of Napoleon's conquests, the ideals of the French Revolution had a massive impact on European social culture; many subsequent revolutions, such as that of Russia, looked to the French as their source of inspiration,[43][44] while its core founding tenets greatly expanded the arena of Human rights and shaped modern political philosophies in use today.[45]

Other Languages
Bân-lâm-gú: Napoléon Chiàn-cheng
Bahasa Indonesia: Peperangan era Napoleon
latviešu: Napoleona kari
lietuvių: Napoleono karai
Lingua Franca Nova: Geras de Napoleon
македонски: Наполеонски војни
Bahasa Melayu: Perang Napoleon
norsk nynorsk: Napoleonskrigane
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Napoleon urushlari
Simple English: Napoleonic Wars
slovenčina: Napoleonské vojny
slovenščina: Napoleonske vojne
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Napoleonski ratovi
татарча/tatarça: Наполеон сугышлары
kriyòl gwiyannen: Lagèr napoléonyenn