Napoleon and the Modern Europe “Like comets, they flashed across the sky of world politics; obsessed with power, they mobilized enormous masses of people for their ambitious goals,” the three historic leaders – Napoleon, Stalin and Hitler – all greatly influenced the world till today.
Despite the fact that Hitler led Nazi Germany to start WWII and Stalin transformed Soviet Union and started the Cold War, I believe that Napoleon had the greatest impact on modern European history, because he not only established a new order of Europe with his conquest, giving birth to nationalism and the idea of European unity, but also promoted Enlightenment ideas and scientific inquiry that paved the way for modern world, and promulgated a new Civil Code which was adopted as the basis of law system in many European nations.
A talented military and political leader, Napoleon rapidly gained control of continental Europe and established a new order. Dreaming of European integration , Napoleon achieved his goals by colonizing large parts of Europe; he brought the disparate German and Italian states together, annexed some European territories and set up other nations as satellite kingdoms. Napoleon’s attempt to bring Europe together provided the idea of European unification of today.
He also abolished serfdom and extended civil rights to religious minorities on these territories; these reforms set the basis for civil liberties and equalities in modern Europe. Furthermore, Napoleon’s military expansion gave birth to nationalism based on local people’s resentment and desire of national independence, which showed by the revolutions in Greece, Belgium and the Spanish and Portuguese colonies in the post-Napoleonic order. When he was conquering the Europe, Napoleon also spread Enlightenment ideas and promoted science inquiry that were fundamental to modern thoughts.
In the first half of the Eighteenth Century, the spirit of Enlightenment swept in the Western Hemisphere and gained numerous adherents. Unlike other European rulers who feared its defense of individual rights and freedoms, Napoleon insisted on Enlightenment-inspired reforms in France: abolished torture, religious toleration, and equality. He also imposed such revolutionary reforms wherever his army conquered abroad; for example, Egypt, a Muslim country, was led to experience French-style reforms.
Napoleon also made great effort to promote scientific inquiry, and accomplishments at his time included the discovery of laws about gases expansion and research on fossil, which “prepared the way for new theories of evolutionary change. ” What’s more, Napoleon established a system of civil laws in Napoleonic Code, adopted by many European nations. After he became the First Consul of France, Napoleon completed a new Civil Code in 1804, which “tempered the principles of the Enlightenment and the Revolution.
The code revived Old Regime’s paternalism with an insistence on the power of fathers, husbands and employers, and it also protected many gains of the French Revolution by “defining and ensuring property rights, guaranteeing religious liberty and establishing a uniform system of law. ” During the 19th century, the Civil Code was voluntarily adopted by many countries in Europe and Latin America, and even by Louisiana . It served as the basis of the civil laws in many European nations today.
However, many people would suppose that the other historical figure, Hitler, had the greatest impact on modern European history because of his notorious Nazism and its consequences. Hitler turned Germany into a fascist and militant nation under his dictatorship; his hatred of Jewish led to the “Holocaust” which killed nearly 6 million European Jews and devastated their communities. Most importantly, Hitler was the one who led the Nazi Germany to expand and ultimately caused the outbreak of WWII, resulting in millions of death and a new word order with United States and Soviet Union as sole superpowers.
Even so, I don’t believe that Hitler made much contribution to the modernity as Napoleon did; in fact, he even reintroduced barbarism. Two characteristics of fascism – racism and violence – helped Hitler restore a barbarian society in Germany. The belief of “some people were congenitally inferior to others” and killing innocents became popular in his regime. The Nazi Party even burned works by Jews, socialists, homosexuals and modernist writers, destroying the rich creativity of the Weimar years and preventing people from modernity in culture.
It’s also often supposed that Stalin had the greatest impact on modern European history since he led the transformation of Soviet Union and competition with United States in the Cold War. Before Stalin’s rise to power, the USSR’s industrial system lagged decades behind other powerful nations. In the 1930s, Stalin transformed USSR to an industrial power with his five-year plans. He also demanded a “liquidation of the kulaks” and brought the traditional peasant life to a violent end. During WWII, Stalin well transformed Soviet’s Red Army with his policies, and the Soviet military helped defeat the Axis power in the end.
When Soviet Union rose as the new superpower, Stalin furthered Communists’ interests and started the nuclear arms race with United States, which led to the Cold War. Nonetheless, I believe Stalin had less impact than Napoleon because his reforms benefited Soviet Union only, and the communist rule he imposed did not affected most European countries except those in Eastern Europe. Napoleon, on the contrary, instituted reforms in different countries and spread the revolutionary and Enlightenment ideas over the entire European continent.
Emperor of the France, Napoleon Bonaparte accomplished political and cultural reforms across Europe with his Civil Code; the Enlightenment ideas he insisted – civil liberty, equality and religious toleration – served as the key notion of modernity in western civilization. With their totalitarian regimes that were crucial in the 20th century, Hitler and Stalin also engraved their names in history. No matter who had the greatest impact, the three leaders all made lasting contribution that shaped today’s Europe and even the world.