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Napoleon Enlightenment Ideas

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The Enlightenment was a philosophical movement which took place during the 1700’s. During this time period, many new beliefs and views of government, economics, and religion arose. There were many figures who had exemplified the ideas of the Enlightenment, but the person who best exemplified the ideas of the Enlightenment was Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon Bonaparte was a French military leader and emperor who had conquered most of Europe, who had promoted the ideas of the Enlightenment was through his belief in liberty, equality and fraternity (Keithly). Additionally, Napoleon empowered the Enlightenment ideals by promoting beliefs such as equality before the law, religious freedom, and abolition of feudalism. In order to build off the ideals of the Enlightenment, Napoleon created the Napoleonic Code which reflected Napoleon’s interpretation of the French Revolution.

Napoleon had created the Napoleonic Code which reflected the ideals of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment was built around ideas such as equality and freedom and the Napoleonic Code had enforced those ideas throughout a long period of time. Napoleon strongly believed in the Enlightenment ideals and had made sure to emphasize on them during his reign. Quoted straight from Napoleon, “My glory is not that I won forty battles and dictated the law to kings… Waterloo wipes out the memory of all my victories… But what will be wiped out by nothing and will live forever is my Civil Code” (Mirow). This quote alone stands to show that Napoleon had a firm belief in the Enlightenment ideals, and if there was one thing he made sure about throughout his rule was that the Napoleonic Code was going to stay and have an impact on the society. The effects of the Napoleonic Code can even be seen today, as it had greatly influenced many European and Latin American countries (Mirow).

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In addition to the Napoleonic Code, another way that Napoleon demonstrated his commitment to the Enlightenment ideals was by creating public school education. He believed that education was crucial towards developing the future, so he provided education to all families. The reforms of the educational systems included the establishment of academic high schools, which prepared the youth for university level studies. At these universities, children were trained to become the country's greatest leaders, administrators, engineers, scientists, and teachers (Keithly). Additionally, in order to enforce one of the most important ideals, which was equality, Napoleon had abolished privileges based on birth. This meant that no matter what type of family someone was born into, they would be provided the same opportunities as any other kid would.

Although I believe Napoleon was extremely committed to the Enlightenment ideals, many people disagree. One of the biggest arguments I’ve heard is, if Napoleon believed in equality, why didn’t he provide the public education to everyone and not just the rich people. This is a valid argument, but there is a crucial reason behind why Napoleon couldn’t provide the public education to everyone and only to the wealthy. The reason is, during this time period, kids were working from young ages in order to support their families, mostly for the poor families only because the wealthy families were well enough, and they didn’t need their kids working (Keithly). Additionally, although Napoleon hadn’t provided public education to everyone, he did show many other examples of equality. One example of equality was when he abolished being born into privileges (Kulshrestha). That is why, the argument that Napoleon wasn’t very equal to everyone isn’t too crucial although it’s not completely invalid either.

Napoleon Bonaparte made many commitments in his reign in order to fulfill the Enlightenment ideals. Napoleon back then kind of resembles Donald Trump today just because of how committed they are to fulfill the ideals of their own society. Napoleon enforced the Enlightenment ideals and Trump enforces the Constitution. As we know, the French Revolution had changed the way of life back then and how people lived their lives. If we had an American Revolution today, what do you think would change in today’s society?

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Napoleon Enlightenment Ideas. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from
“Napoleon Enlightenment Ideas.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022,
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Napoleon Enlightenment Ideas [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2024 Mar 2]. Available from:
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