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Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon

Examine a crucial turning point for humanity-the French Revolution and its aftermath-in which common people threw off the shackles of oppression and seized freedom.
Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 182.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Eat Cake This is a fine course. It is comprehensive and clear. The teacher is passionate and knowledgeable. I'm happy I bought it. Excellent.
Date published: 2022-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great motivator to learn more Some of the reviews I read before watching this course were unbelievable- including criticising the lecturer’s facial expressions, gait and even the way she enunciated or pronounced the odd English or French word. Viewers complained they found these distracting. As a former lecturer myself, I thought Professor Desan delivered the mass of complex material brilliantly, and that was in front of all the technical paraphernalia required to record the course. Rather than being distracted by the presenter, I was totally caught up in all the lectures (she even made the battles interesting and straightforward to understand) and watched several at a time; indeed the 48 lectures flew by and I’ll definitely have to watch again. In my career, I have attended many, many lectures and presentations by students, colleagues and visiting academics and these are up there with the very best. Suzanne Desan is a compelling lecturer whose knowledge and enthusiasm shine through. She ties a myriad of unseemingly related things together, weaving them deftly across place and time giving the viewer pause for thought and a desire to learn more. In fact I will probably now read some of her books/articles and those she cited. How she makes it look so effortless, I don’t know but I do wish I had had a lecturer like her when I was studying and I hope she will present more courses for Wondrium in the future. Brilliant lecturer and content but I do have one small quibble. She seemed to use the terms England and Great Britain (or Britain) interchangeably yet they are not the same. In some cases, using England instead of Britain could well be acceptable such as when the French sent soldiers over to the South Coast of Ireland-here the proximity of the soldiers to England makes this term a probable choice. At other times though, Prof Desan would talk of the English navy in one sentence but call it the British navy in the next and this ‘interchangeability’ was scattered throughout some of the lectures. However, this did not detract from an exceedingly informative and enjoyable course by a first class lecturer and I’m looking forward to now adding to the knowledge gained. Thank you.
Date published: 2022-05-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A splendid course and a compelling historian A splendid course and a compelling historian This splendid course has everything one could wish from a history and an historian; A compelling and enlisted narrator, empathy for its personalities and episodes, perspective, a forensic eye for detail, a wry sense of ironic humour, wit, I .have a history degree and have studied the French Revolution but this course made sense of aspects I had not appreciated or understood, and furthermore it extended its reach to explain the dilemmas of their revolutions and other dilemmas and enigmas created by events and people. It was gripping, moving an punctuated with amusing asides. It am indebted to this historian for revealing aspects of the revolution that hitherto were a closed book. I am a European citizen BaruchXIII
Date published: 2022-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Accurate Very engaging and inciteful. An enthusiastic insightful professor.
Date published: 2022-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Desan's course is excellent in both content and presentation. Highly recommend
Date published: 2022-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wish I Could Rate this 6 Stars I have almost always been impressed by the quality of the courses which The Great Courses company produces but I felt that this one was exceptional. The course consisted of 48 thirty-minute lectures. It chronicled not only the history of the revolution and the rise and fall of Napoleon, but also, the ideas of the many intellectuals who either supported or opposed it. The lecturer, Professor Suzanne Desan, also discusses the revolution’s war on religion, its influence upon the slave rebellions in the American islands, its effects on family life and women’s rights and, in summary, the revolution’s short and long-term influence on societies throughout the world. The incident which is defined as the start of the French Revolution is the storming of the Bastille by hundreds of ordinary Parisians on July 14, 1789. The revolution ended in 1799 when Bonaparte staged a coup d’etat, abolishing the governing Directory and appointing himself France’s First Consul. What were the objectives of the Revolution? They changed over time but essentially it was to reduce the power of the aristocracy and to increase the power of the ordinary people. What motivated the people to believe that they were entitled to a greater share of the wealth of the country and also made them believe that they had the ability to overcome the much greater wealth and power of the aristocracy? This course answers this question by beginning with a discussion of two societal developments that began in the 17th century. The first was the intellectual movement called the Enlightenment. It celebrated the use of reason, the power by which humans understand the universe and improve their own condition. The goals of rational humanity were considered to be knowledge, freedom, and happiness. The second was the growth of commerce. It produced a new elite of rich commoners. The old hierarchy of privilege seemed to lose its validity. But it was the financial and agricultural crisis in the 1780’s which proved to be the tipping point of the influence of these two movements. It resulted in many elites demanding the king, Louis XVI, to do something that no king had done since 1614: call an Estates-General (assembly consisting of all 3 classes of French society) to ask the people of France for their opinion on how to handle the financial crisis. In 1788, he agreed that he would summon the Estates-General the next spring. Although no one knew it at the time, with that act, Louis opened the door to revolution. At the Estates-General meeting, few thought of overthrowing the monarchy, but almost everyone thought that the days of the absolutist monarchy were over. Weeks passed without passage of any resolutions. The leaders of the nobility and church grew more and more unwilling to compromise with the Third Estate (everyone who was not a member of the nobility or the church). The frustration of the Third Estate led to their storming the Bastille. After this, other urban revolts and peasant uprisings swept across France. The King was still viewed as the leader of the country, but his power was very limited and the General Assembly of the people developed and passed the laws. It should be noted that it was at this time, that the more liberal elements sat to the left of the President of the assembly and the more conservative sat to the right. This is the origin of left liberal and right conservative terminology. The initial objectives of most revolutionaries were to create a constitutional monarchy, but with the execution of the king in 1793, France officially declared itself to be a republic. The mass executions, called The Terror, began shortly after that in the Fall of 1793 and ended in 1794. About 35,000 people died in the Terror, including those who died in prison or who were executed without a trial, especially in the western part of France. I was surprised to learn that only about 8 percent of the victims were nobles; 85 percent were ordinary citizens who often simply had the bad fortune of living in areas of counterrevolution or federalist resistance. I was also surprised to learn that, despite the bloodbath, the government implemented many welfare programs for the poor and also passed the bill for the abolishment of slavery in all French territories. The terror was followed by a shift to the right called the Thermidorian period. It lasted 15 months, and was then followed by a period in which a panel of five men called the Directory were the chief executives of the republic. It was during this period that France implemented the metric system. Napoleon’s 1799 coup d’etat ended the Directory. The course then chronicles Napoleon’s military victories which resulted in the massive expansion of France’s borders or dominance. The awe provoked by these victories, allowed him to take further control of France. In August 1802, he was elected first consul for life. In December 1804, he crowned himself Emperor of France. During his reign, he undid many policies of the revolution – he reenacted slavery in the colonies, suppressed freedom of speech, undid many of the laws that reduced the power of fathers in the family, stripped women of their newly gained rights. Professor Desan mentioned that women were not allowed to vote in France until 1944. Napoleon’s defeat and first expulsion from France occurred in 1814. He was sent to Elba, an island in the Mediterranean. Louis XVIII became King of France. In 1815 Napoleon returned to France and replaced Louis XVIII as leader of France. His leadership only lasted 100 days and was ended at the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815. He was expelled to the island of St. Helena and died there on May 5, 1821. Louis XVIII returned to the throne. Professor Desan then briefly discusses the history of France beyond the Napoleonic era. Louis died in 1824. His younger, aggressively conservative brother took the throne as Charles X. In 1830, in harsh economic times, a second antiroyalist revolution wracked France, Charles X fled. Liberal politicians put the king’s cousin on the throne, the liberal constitutional monarch Louis-Philippe. This liberal monarchy lasted until 1848, when revolution broke out once again in France and across Europe. Then, France tried for the second time to institute a republic. They elected Napoleon’s nephew, who soon abolished the second republic and became Emperor Napoleon III. During the Battle of Sedan in September 1870, Napoleon III was captured by the Germans. Two days later he was deposed and then sent to England where he died. The Third Republic of France was declared. It lasted until 1940. Fourth Republic (1946-1958); Fifth Republic (1958-present). In the last lecture, Professor Desan, discusses the impact which the French Revolutionary ideology had upon the world. She views it in a very positive light, that the mantra of liberty, equality, and fraternity have been shouted from democratic uprisings throughout the world. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these uprisings resulted in the same anarchy which afflicted the French Revolution. I will admit that the French Revolution made people aware of the injustices of their societies, but it did not give them the correct formula for counteracting these injustices. I believe that the world would have been much better off if they had followed the British model (minus the royal family). Why? Because the British model did not emphasize freedom but rather restraint. An adolescent wants freedom; an adult realizes that their freedom is limited by the equal right to freedom of their fellow human being. The beauty of democracy is that it imposes upon the individual the responsibility of restraining their wishes when they realize the justifiable wishes of their fellow human being. When this realization does not occur, anarchy results, and the world slips into its much more natural form of government, autocracy, one in which the ruler not the individual imposes restraints upon the expression of individual desires. This history of the French Revolution was a painful, but extremely important reminder of the very tentative nature of democracy and why it is so rare and fleeting in human history.
Date published: 2022-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best GC course I have ever taken. Desan is a brilliant historian and gifted speaker. What more is there to say?
Date published: 2022-02-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A very comprehensive course. I knew very little about the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Era. This course fulfilled my desire to learn more. It's very thorough, explaining all the whys, whos, whats, and whens. Professor Desan delivers her lessons with enthusiasm. The only negative in my experience is one I've reported before: There's a problem with the Great Courses app for the iPad that frequently makes the audio repeat a phrase, thereby throwing the audio out of sync with the video. It happened way too many times with this course, including 5 times in a single lecture. I've run into this glitch so often that I'm now thinking of foregoing the video format entirely.
Date published: 2022-01-03
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The 25 years between the onset of the French Revolution in 1789 and the Bourbon Restoration after Napoleon in 1814 is an astonishing period in world history. Now you can learn the full story of this era that shook the foundations of the old world and marked a permanent shift for politics, religion, and society-not just for France, but for all of Europe-in Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon. These 48 thrilling lectures by Dr. Suzanne M. Desan of the University of Wisconsin√Madison will give you a broad and comprehensive survey of this pivotal era that speaks to some of the same issues and events in contemporary history, from the quest for civil rights in the United States to the fall of the Berlin Wall.


Suzanne M. Desan

I've devoted my career to studying the French Revolutionary era. This era-its actors, its dreams, its politics, its tragedies-it just won't let me go. I seem to be addicted to the French Revolution.


University of Wisconsin, Madison

Professor Suzanne M. Desan is the Vilas-Shinners Distinguished Achievement Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Professor Desan is a historian of early modern Europe, specializing in 18th-century France. She holds a B.A. in History from Princeton University and an M.A. and a Ph.D. in History from the University of California, Berkeley.


Professor Desan’s love of teaching has been recognized by various awards, including the University of Wisconsin Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award (2007) and the UW–Madison Undergraduate History Association’s Professor of the Year Award (2013). She has sought out wider audiences for her teaching by participating in Wisconsin Public Radio’s University of the Air, the Chicago Humanities Festival, and seminars and workshops sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities.


Professor Desan’s research has often probed how individuals experienced French revolutionary politics in their daily lives. She has especially tried to understand the Revolution’s impact on ordinary men and women and to analyze how they engaged in politics in households, churches, and villages. More recently, her writing has examined the international circulation of revolutionary ideas and practices and has explored the influence of foreigners on French politics and political culture.


Professor Desan has written or coedited Reclaiming the Sacred: Lay Religion and Popular Politics in Revolutionary France; The Family on Trial in Revolutionary France; Family, Gender, and Law in Early Modern France; and The French Revolution in Global Perspective.


Professor Desan has spent many happy hours delving into archives in France. Her research has been supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Philosophical Association, John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Fulbright Program, and American Council of Learned Societies. 

By This Professor

Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon
Living the French Revolution and the Age of Napoleon


Introduction and the Old Regime Monarchy

01: Introduction and the Old Regime Monarchy

Take a first look at the complexities of overthrowing a monarchy and constructing a democracy. This first lecture introduces you to Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette and lays the groundwork for the gripping drama of the French Revolution.

33 min
Privilege-Old Regime Society

02: Privilege-Old Regime Society

Look at the hierarchical society of France in the 1780s, which was divided into three estates-those who prayed (the clergy), those who fought (the nobles), and those who worked and paid taxes (the peasants). This system placed a heavy burden on the peasantry and set the stage for revolution.

30 min
The Enlightenment

03: The Enlightenment

Enter 18th-century salons and cafés to join the debates over modernity and politics. While writers such as Voltaire, Diderot, and Rousseau argued over natural rights, political reform, the social contract, and more, the Old Regime cracked down on dissidents and threw writers in jail for criticizing the government.

32 min
France, Global Commerce, and Colonization

04: France, Global Commerce, and Colonization

See how global trade, the mercantilist system, and the slave trade disrupted traditional notions of societal hierarchy as non-nobles benefited greatly from the new economy. Additionally, global warfare-especially between France and Great Britain over colonization-left France weakened and deeply in debt.

31 min
American Revolution and the Economic Crisis

05: American Revolution and the Economic Crisis

Explore the economic problems of France in the 1780s. The nation was deeply in debt, due to war with Britain and participating in the American Revolution. The opening of free trade hit the textile market and caused high unemployment. Finally, years of poor harvests and famine spurred grain riots.

30 min
The Political Awakening of 1789

06: The Political Awakening of 1789

When the Estates-General met in 1789 to tackle the nation's woes, several questions were on the table: Who would have political power? How could France reform its tax system? What would happen to the system of privilege? Explore how the Third Estate challenged the status quo and created a revolutionary new Assembly to represent all France.

32 min
July 14th-Storming the Bastille

07: July 14th-Storming the Bastille

Unpack the story of one of the most famous days in French history. In the wake of the Estates-General crisis, hungry crowds gathered in the streets of Paris. As the king gathered troops around Versailles, the politics of hunger took over in the streets and the crowds stormed the Bastille, sparking a nationwide revolution.

30 min
Peasant Revolt and the Abolition of Feudalism

08: Peasant Revolt and the Abolition of Feudalism

In the weeks after the storming of the Bastille, panic gripped the countryside. Peasants revolted against their lords, and rumors about grain hoarding, bandits, and foreign invasion swirled around France. Amid this "Great Fear of 1789," the National Assembly met and dismantled the feudal system as the political revolution morphed into a radical social revolution.

32 min
The Declaration of the Rights of Man

09: The Declaration of the Rights of Man

Study the origins and significance of this shocking declaration, from its influences in the Enlightenment and American rights declarations to its implications for religious liberty and the role of the king. Who would get these "universal rights"? How would they be implemented?

33 min
Paris Commands Its King

10: Paris Commands Its King

March to Versailles with thousands of women and National Guardsmen to protest the price of bread and to lobby the king for political changes. This huge demonstration compelled the king and queen to move to Paris and revealed the power of popular activism.

29 min
Political Apprenticeship in Democracy

11: Political Apprenticeship in Democracy

The press, political clubs, and elections-these three pillars of democratic, revolutionary politics set the agenda for the nation as France redistributed power, redrew its administrative map, and instituted a host of reforms that gave local voting power to the provinces.

31 min
Religion and the Early Revolution

12: Religion and the Early Revolution

Shift your attention from politics to the Catholic Church, which was at the heart of local communities throughout France. Despite an overall decline in religion in the 18th century, revolutionaries were playing with fire as they sought to reform the church, and their actions divided the country.

31 min
The Revolution and the Colonies

13: The Revolution and the Colonies

Turn to the French colonies and ask what the Revolution meant in places such as Saint-Domingue, the colony that would soon become the independent nation of Haiti. Did the Declaration of the Rights of Man apply to free people of color? Would the Revolution abolish the slave trade? These questions would take several years to answer.

30 min
Women's Rights in the Early Revolution

14: Women's Rights in the Early Revolution

Women had no official political role in the Old Regime, but the Revolution raised the question of women's rights and their place in the public sphere. Find out how two of the era's key feminists-Condorcet, a male mathematician, and Olympe de Gouges, a female writer-framed the demand for women's rights, and observe the many ways women engaged in politics.

30 min
The King's Flight

15: The King's Flight

On June 20, 1791, King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette disappeared, having fled into the night. This lecture shows you the king's secret-and ultimately doomed-attempt to escape France. This act became a significant turning point for the Revolution because it allowed the French to imagine their country without a king.

30 min
Foreign Reactions-A Divided Europe

16: Foreign Reactions-A Divided Europe

Travel to Great Britain to explore the foreign reactions to the French Revolution. Professor Desan walks you through Edmund Burke's defense of tradition and the aristocratic system, as well as Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man," a response to Burke that lays out an argument for equality and a series of reforms.

31 min
The Path to War with Europe

17: The Path to War with Europe

Discover why France went to war with Austria and Prussia in 1792, and meet some of the key players in that decision-including the Jacobin Maximilien Robespierre who, ironically, feared war could destroy the Revolution and lead to a dictatorship. Study the causes of the war that would transform the Revolution.

32 min
Overthrowing the Monarchy

18: Overthrowing the Monarchy

Turn to ordinary citizens as they overthrow their king and embark on a bold political experiment. With France losing the war with Austria and angry crowds in the streets, the Legislative Assembly declared the homeland in danger. See how revolutionary leaders and Parisians took matters into their own hands to press for creation of a republic.

30 min
The King's Trial

19: The King's Trial

Experience the stunning trial and execution of King Louis XVI. This lecture begins by surveying the political alignments of the new republic and the debates between the radical Jacobins and the moderate Girondins over what to do with the king-a political division that would only deepen after the king's execution.

29 min
The Republic at War

20: The Republic at War

Consider the international issues while France was at war. How did the French army save the republic at the battle of Valmy? Could the French spread the Revolution abroad? Could they continue to face their growing list of enemies? You'll also learn about the French military and what it was like to be a soldier in the revolutionary army.

32 min
Revolutionary Culture and Festivals

21: Revolutionary Culture and Festivals

Step back and explore the culture of France as revolutionary leaders tried to stamp out the power of religion and the monarchy. From a new republican calendar to festivals that celebrated the goddesses Liberty and Reason, radicals enacted a fascinating series of changes.

31 min
Family and Marriage

22: Family and Marriage

Look beyond the larger issues of politics and economics and reflect on how the Revolution introduced new ideas of liberty and equality into family relationships. The revolutionaries legalized divorce, challenged the authority of fathers, and abolished unfair inheritance laws. Families became a microcosm of the Revolution as individuals figured out what liberty meant in everyday life.

31 min
Slave Revolt and the Abolition of Slavery

23: Slave Revolt and the Abolition of Slavery

The largest slave revolt in history took place in Saint-Domingue in the early 1790s. What made the revolt possible? How did insurgent slaves convince France that slavery should be abolished? Uncover the suspenseful story of Toussaint Louverture's rise to power, which paved the way for an independent Haiti.

31 min
Counterrevolution and the Vendee

24: Counterrevolution and the Vendee

Not everyone was on board with the Revolution. In fact, tens of thousands of peasants and artisans in the provinces were dissatisfied with what they saw as the atheism and the anarchy of the revolutionaries. Learn about the civil war in western France and the counterrevolutionary efforts to restore the king and the old way of life.

31 min
The Pressure Cooker of Politics

25: The Pressure Cooker of Politics

Return to Paris during the crisis months of spring 1793 as the leading revolutionaries wrestled with the ongoing economic crisis, war losses, and the growing fear of conspiracy and counterrevolution. The government took emergency measures and created the Committee of Public Safety, thus sowing the seeds for the Terror.

32 min
Revolution in Crisis-Summer 1793

26: Revolution in Crisis-Summer 1793

Witness the Jacobins' struggle to hold the republic together. French Federalists wanted local power, especially in the south and in Normandy. Although their revolt never gained traction, it stunned Jacobins in Paris. Another dramatic calamity came in July, with the actions of a woman named Charlotte Corday.

31 min
Terror Is the Order of the Day

27: Terror Is the Order of the Day

The beginning of the Terror is difficult to pinpoint, but by the fall of 1793, all the institutions of the Terror were in place. This lecture shows you how the Jacobins built the Terror, introduces you to some of its victims-including its most famous victim, Marie-Antoinette-and wrestles with the philosophical question of how the Terror emerged from the Revolution.

32 min
The Revolution Devours Her Children

28: The Revolution Devours Her Children

Continue your study of the Terror and explore the fundamental contradiction of using brutal means to create an egalitarian republic. Delve into the clandestine political plots and see how Robespierre tried to negotiate a middle path between the extremists who were for or against the Terror.

31 min
The Overthrow of Robespierre

29: The Overthrow of Robespierre

How was Robespierre overthrown? As the Terror intensifies, you will follow an exhausted Robespierre as he battles to maintain control, and you will meet a group known as the Thermidorians, who would take control of France and dismantle the Terror.

31 min
The Thermidorian Reaction

30: The Thermidorian Reaction

After the fall of Robespierre, France shifted to the right as the Thermidorians struggled to save the republic and create a social order free from the violence of the Terror. Witness the last great uprising of the Revolution, yet again over bread and politics, and trace the construction of the short-lived government called the Directory.

31 min
The Directory-An Experimental Republic

31: The Directory-An Experimental Republic

Examine the moderate new republic and its attempts to find a middle way to carry out the promise of the Enlightenment and the Revolution without the disorder of the preceding years. Because this curious moment is wedged between the Terror and Napoleon, it tends to be ignored in historical surveys, but it was a significant time as France expanded and experimented with revolutionary innovations.

30 min
Young Napoleon

32: Young Napoleon

Meet the famous Corsican who would one day crown himself emperor of France. This lecture introduces you to Napoleon as a young man. The context of his early military career will enhance your understanding of the mature general, and it demonstrates his complexity as an outsider striving to gain power.

31 min
The Italian Campaign and the Sister Republics

33: The Italian Campaign and the Sister Republics

As commander of the French army in Italy in 1796, Napoleon marched into Milan, drove Austria to its knees, and set up a sister republic in Italy, astonishing the rest of Europe. See what made Napoleon such a brilliant military strategist, and learn about Napoleon's politics and diplomacy as a young leader.

30 min
Sister Republics? France and America

34: Sister Republics? France and America

Review the relationship between France and the United States. Coming off the heels of the American Revolution, the two nations had a cozy relationship in 1789, but the friendship soured over the next decade. By 1798, they were nearly at war, thanks to U.S. proclamations of neutrality, the Jay Treaty with Great Britain, and the XYZ Affair.

32 min
Bonaparte in Egypt

35: Bonaparte in Egypt

Return to Napoleon's military conquests-this time in Egypt, which was then part of the Ottoman Empire. After his Italian campaign, he grew restless in Paris and led an expedition to Egypt in an attempt to colonize it and spread French civilization abroad.

30 min
Bonaparte Seizes Power

36: Bonaparte Seizes Power

How did Napoleon seize power in France in 1799? Tensions were high between the royalists and the neo-Jacobins, and in this climate of crisis, Napoleon led a military coup and drew up yet another constitution for France, bringing the Revolution to an end.

31 min
Building Power-General and First Consul

37: Building Power-General and First Consul

Trace the early years of Napoleon's rule and see how he built his power step by step. At war, he maneuvered boldly against the Austrians and had an uncanny ability to make peace. At home, he combined repression with conciliation to secure his power, and in 1802 he was elected First Consul for life.

31 min
Napoleon Becomes Emperor

38: Napoleon Becomes Emperor

As his power grew, Napoleon's ties to the Revolution shifted. He spoke of the "nation" rather than the "republic," and he became more formal and remote. After a failed plot against his life, he declared himself emperor. Despite this shocking seizure of power, he built on some of the Revolution's better achievements.

31 min
Napoleon's Ambitions in the New World

39: Napoleon's Ambitions in the New World

In 1803, despite Napoleon's colonial ambitions, France sold 800,000 square miles of the Louisiana territory to the United States. Find out why by considering the international situation, especially Napoleon's attempt to re-establish slavery and the loss of Haiti after the slave revolt.

30 min
Taking on the Great Powers

40: Taking on the Great Powers

While Napoleon's ambitions in the Americas had been thwarted, he was ready in 1805 to take on the great powers of Europe. Go inside the Grande Armée and learn about Napoleon's corps system. Then take a look at several key battles, including Trafalgar at sea and the Battle of Austerlitz.

30 min
Expanding the Empire

41: Expanding the Empire

From 1806 to 1808, Napoleon pushed his empire beyond the limits of what he could actually rule, from Poland to Spain. Take a closer look at his military strategy as he reached the pinnacle of his power. He concentrated his forces for decisive victories in the Battle of Jena-Auerstädt, and he hammered out a peace with Tsar Alexander of Russia.

31 min
France during the Empire

42: France during the Empire

Perhaps because Napoleon rose to power so unexpectedly, his legitimacy was always fragile. Survey the ways in which he built his own glory by transforming Paris and creating a new nobility. Then see how, needing an heir, he divorced Josephine.

32 min
Living under the Empire

43: Living under the Empire

Was Napoleon a modernizer who brought efficient and liberal reforms throughout his European empire, or was he a cultural imperialist who tried to export his vision of a centralized, authoritarian state? Historians debate this even today, and this lecture shows you each side of the Napoleonic legacy.

31 min
The Russian Campaign

44: The Russian Campaign

Follow Napoleon's harrowing march across Russia in 1812, and witness his doomed campaign from the viewpoint of his soldiers. Napoleon's fateful decision to invade Russia marked a turning point for his empire.

30 min
Napoleon's Fall and the Hundred Days

45: Napoleon's Fall and the Hundred Days

Experience the drama that followed the disastrous Russian campaign, where several European nations formed an alliance against France and forced Napoleon into exile. But in a surprising turn of events, he escaped the island of Elba and regained control of France without firing a single shot.

31 min
Waterloo and Beyond

46: Waterloo and Beyond

Against all odds, Napoleon struggled to hang onto power, but in the spring of 1815, all the major European powers had declared war against him. He needed one great victory to secure his reign, but the Battle of Waterloo became his final undoing and reverberated for years to come.

31 min
Emerging Political Models

47: Emerging Political Models

Take a look at the politics of France after Napoleon. The nation had changed too much over the preceding 25 years to simply return to a stable monarchy. See the emergence of competing political models of conservatism, liberalism, and Bonapartism during the Bourbon Restoration of King Louis XVIII.

33 min
Revolutionary Legacies

48: Revolutionary Legacies

In this concluding lecture, you'll look at how the ideas, symbols, and practices of the Revolution had far-ranging consequences that are still being debated today. From the European uprisings of 1848 to the civil rights issues of the 20th and 21st centuries, the questions raised by the French Revolution are still being asked.

32 min