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Travel topics > Cultural attractions > Historical travel > Military tourism > Napoleonic Wars
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See also: European history

The Napoleonic Wars were the greatest wars of the 19th century. The wars started as the attempt of the ancién regimes of Europe to suppress the French revolution, but soon became a war of conquest with the intention of "revolution export" by France.


Death is nothing, but to live defeated and inglorious is to die daily.Napoleon Bonaparte

Soon the revolutionary government was taken over by a young charismatic general from Corsica of the name of Napoleone Buonaparte (now known as Napoleon I or Bonaparte) and he crowned himself emperor of the French in 1804. After almost three decades of next to constant warfare in ever-shifting alliance that brought most of the continent much needed political reform but also "Napoleonic" puppet governments, Napoleon attempted an ill-fated invasion of Russia in 1812 that led to his decisive defeat first near Leipzig and after escaping from exile on Elba near Waterloo in 1815. The war was also global in a sense, as both the War of 1812 in North America and the Haitian revolution can only be understood with the context of the French revolutions and the Napoleonic wars. The wars are sometimes known as "Coalition Wars" as the ever shifting alliances gave rise to a periodization along the lines of War of the First Coalition, War of the Second Coalition and so on.


Map of Napoleonic Wars


1 Waterloo. Where Napoleon was finally defeated, now a universal symbol for defeat, not least due to the ABBA song


There is a rather bombastic 2 monument of the battle of Leipzig (Völkerschlacht in German) just out of town, that was erected in time for the first centennial (1913) and reflects the nationalistic taste of that time.

  • There is a Waterloo column in Hanover (which belonged to Britain during the wars and until the mid 19th century)


Napoleon himself is buried in Paris/7th arrondissement in the Dome des Invalides. There is a great Army Museum (Musée de l'Armée) next door that was founded in 1795 and expanded by Napoleon, but the current building dates from 1905. The 3 Vendôme Column, centerpiece of Place Vendôme, raised to commemorate the victory at Austerlitz, and 4 La Madeleine church, originally commissioned as the Temple de la Gloire de la Grande Armée ("Temple to the Glory of the Great Army"), are very significant monuments in this context, and should not be missed.

  • 1 Hôtel des Invalides, 6, boul des Invalides (Paris m 8 jms.svgParis m 13 jms.svgParis rer C jms.svg Invalides). Founded in 1671 by Louis XIV as a hospital for 6,000 wounded soldiers—this function explaining the name of the building—the golden-domed Hôtel des Invalides still functions as an infirmary and now also houses the Musée de l'Armée. The church attached, l'Eglise du Dôme, houses the tomb of Napoleon.

Great Britain

5 Trafalgar Square in London is named for a decisive maritime battle off the coast of Spain.


  • 6 Vienna. Austria was one of Napoleons arch-enemies, and eventually defeated his armies. After the war, the 1814–1815 Congress of Vienna set the new European borders.


  • 7 Elba. Napoleon was exiled here in 1814, but escaped to seek revenge.

South Atlantic

Napoleon was famously banished to Saint Helena after Elba proved too close to mainland Europe. Rumors of his poisoning by the British are long-lived though probably unjustified.

See also

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