Napoleon ruled in the autocratic style of an absolute monarch. Although legislative bodies existed in France during Napoleon’s reign, they had little real power, having been stripped of it by the Constitution of Year XII (1804). If the principle of representative government was the cornerstone of the French Revolution, Napoleon definitely did not advance its values.
While Napoleon’s autocratic rule violated the principle of representative government, there is no doubt that Napoleon enjoyed the support of the majority of the French people and considered himself an agent acting on their behalf. The Constitution of Year XII, which elevated Napoleon from First Consul to Emperor, was ratified by the French people in a plebiscite, or national referendum, with over 99 percent of voters voting in favor of Napoleon becoming emperor and claiming the powers that came with it. Additionally, he claimed the title of “Emperor of the French,” rather than “Emperor of France,” in recognition that his power came from the French people rather than by divine right. Although the people were not directly involved in governing through elected representatives, Napoleon gave a nod to the principle of popular sovereignty under the social contract and used his power to deliver popular reforms, such as the Concordat of 1801, re-establishing the Catholic Church as the “majority religion” of the French people.
EQUALITY UNDER THE LAW
The Napoleonic Code established a uniform system of laws that applied equally to everyone in the French nation. There were no aristocratic privileges (e.g., tax exemptions for an entire class of people) of the sort that had existed under the Old Regime. This new system of laws recognized the people of France as a nation rather than a collection of three estates.
Some exceptions to equality under the law existed under the Napoleonic Code, such as it being more difficult for women to sue for divorce than men (she only had grounds if her husband brought his mistress into the family home, thereby embarrassing her) and the re-establishment of slavery in the French colonies. However, it should be noted that under the Old Regime, legal divorce did not exist in France, at all, and Britain did not have a similar law until 1857.
EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY
Under Napoleon’s leadership, France made great strides toward equality of opportunity. He expanded access to education, creating lycées that provided a free secondary education to students who could pass the entrance exams. This expanded access to education created unprecedented opportunities for young people from common backgrounds to enter the civil service, the officer corps of the military, or the Catholic hierarchy. Under Napoleon, promotions in the military and civil service were based on merit, rather than social status or noble birth.
If the French Revolution was chiefly about promoting liberal values of free speech, press, and religion, Napoleon would get mixed reviews. His government employed censors , who screened literature and newspapers for offensive content and criticism of the government. However, while the Concordat of 1801 re-established the Catholic Church as the “majority religion” of France, it stopped short of declaring it as the state religion. Napoleon allowed full religious toleration during his reign and even granted Protestant ministers similar subsidies as he gave to Catholic priests. Napoleon’s rule has often been compared to that of the Enlightened Absolutists, as several of his reforms can be seen as implementing liberalism from above.
The Old Regime was made up of the three estates. The laws and the administration of justice varied from region to region. The people of France were bound together only as subjects loyal to the King of France. The Revolution sought to create a French nation that consistently French across regions and did not differentiate legally between members of social classes.
Napoleon advanced the idea of French nationalism by creating a single law code for all of France that established equality under the law, his continued use of the revolutionary Tricolor flag, the restoration of the Catholic Church as the official “majority religion,” and proclaiming himself as the Emperor of the French (People).
In the schools established by Napoleon, French was the only language of instruction. This spread the French language to parts of France where it had not been spoken or understood under the Old Regime. French was also established as the only language of the legal system.
Napoleon also presided over the peak of France’s national greatness and military power. The French people loved him for this, eagerly rallying around the emperor of their own choosing after his escape from his first exile in Elba. During the Hundred Days, Napoleon re-established himself as the Emperor of the French until he was deposed again after being defeated at Waterloo by the foreign military forces of the Seventh Coalition.
Perhaps, the greatest defense that Napoleon could make that he did not undermine the values of the French Revolution was that he personified these values with his own extraordinary life. Napoleon was born to a minor noble family in Corsica (an island off the coast of France that is technically French, but not “seen” as French).
Under the Old Regime, Napoleon would have risen only to the middling officer ranks but would never have been placed in command of an army. Napoleon’s journey from being born to minor provincial nobility to becoming the Emperor of France is, in and of itself, one of the great stories of the French Revolution and its upending of the Old Regime and its system of aristocratic privilege.
When is the 2021 AP European History exam? This year, it's a complicated question, as the exam will be administered three times in early May, late May, and early June.
The first exam administration, which will occur on May 7 at 12 PM local time, will be in the traditional paper/pencil format. The second and third exam administrations, which will occur on May 19 and June 2, at 12 PM EDT, will be administered in a digital format. The digital exams will be administered both in proctored settings at schools and also at home in circumstances permitted by the College Board.
I will be hosting free live reviews each week for AP Euro students. Click here to sign up!
Friday, May 7 @ 12 PM (Local)
Some people say that chivalry is dead, but most don’t even understand what chivalry is. When most people use the word today, they use it to describe someone who is nice. A chivalrous man holds doors for women, pays for dinner and a movie, and yields his seat for a lady. That is certainly part of chivalry, but the chivalrous man is not only someone who is a nice guy, in fact, there are some people to whom the chivalrous man is the opposite of nice!
A chivalrous man can sometimes be downright brutal, as when Rep. Preston Brooks beat Sen. Charles Sumner mercilessly with a cane in the United States Senate chamber in 1856 after Sumner had insulted his state and a member of his extended family. How is it that a chivalrous man can be so nice, and yet so brutal? The answer lies in chivalry’s medieval origins.
The Warrior Code of the Middle Ages
The Values of Chivalry
Sir Bors' Dilemma
The ideals of chivalry are well-illustrated in the story of Sir Bors, one of King Arthur’s legendary Knights of the Round Table. Sir Bors had to choose between saving his brother and saving a young lady who had been abducted. He chose to save the young lady (though he also said a prayer for his brother’s safety).
An Invented Term
Modern historians have coined the term, feudalism, to describe the political and social system of the Middle Ages – particularly in medieval Europe, but it can also be applied to medieval Japan. No one actually said “feudalism” or “feudal system” in the Middle Ages. It was just something that developed in the centuries following the Fall of Rome when centralized government had fallen apart.
The New Feudal Reality
Weak Central Authority
Those who entered into lord-vassal contracts directly with the king, known as great lords, would then enter into similar contracts with lesser lords, making themselves both lords and vassals. Each feudal lord was expected to maintain a certain number of non-noble knights, who also received land. Peasants who lived on the manor would receive the lord’s protection and would, in return, pay dues to their lord in the form of money, crops, or by doing manual labor on the manor for a certain number of days each year.
The Decline of Feudalism
While feudalism began to decline significantly between 1400-1700, some elements of feudalism remained in Europe into the modern era. In 1789, the French National Assembly formally abolished the legal privileges of the nobility in the early stages of the French Revolution. Serfdom continued in Russia until a reforming tsar abolished it in the 1860s.
In 2016, I recorded a video explaining how to set up an LEQ comparing the Italian Renaissance and the Northern Renaissance. The LEQ requires students to write an essay on a given topic focusing on one historical reasoning skill: comparison, continuity and change, or causation. The comparison format has been a favorite of the test makers and that is a good thing for students because it is fairly easy to do.
Mannerism was the dominant art form for the latter part of the sixteenth century, beginning in the 1520s and lasting until the Baroque style became dominant in the early seventeenth century. In contrast to the idealized nature of High Renaissance art, Mannerist painters augmented the natural world with elongated figures in asymmetrical compositions that projected tension and instability. Having been bitterly reminded that the world was far from perfect, Mannerists no longer viewed the portrayal of ideal beauty as the primary goal of art. The Mannerist style can be seen clearly through Michelangelo’s late work and in the work of the next generation of artists, which included Parmigianino and El Greco.
E-Lecture Available on YouTube
Although advocates of the Divine Right of Kings used the Bible to justify their theories, it should be noted that the Bible is far from one-sided when it comes to monarchy. After the Glorious Revolution, John Locke published his Two Treatises of Government, in which he argued against the theory of the Divine Right of Kings and advocated the social contract as a basis for creating governments.
Chris Freiler's AP Achiever text for AP European History is full of concise content summaries, exam strategies, and practice items. Students using this text have the benefit of using a review book written by someone who was part of the team that redesigned the AP European History exam a few years ago. In addition to that, Chris has participated in the AP European History Reading for several years - many of those years in the capacity of Assistant Chief Reader and Question Leader.
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Chris Freiler on a Live Hangout on my YouTube channel. I am sharing the Live Hangout footage here for convenience.
Chris has also provided me with a sample chapter as well as a supplement that outlines the most recent changes to the exam since the most recent version of the text was published (the AP Euro exam has been changed three times in four years - it is difficult for publishers to keep up with this).
Live Hangout with Chris Freiler
I recently had the privilege of chatting with Chris Freiler about all things AP Euro. Take a look if you'd like to get to know the author of this review text!
The Thirty Years’ War was a European continental war that took place from 1618-1648 (thirty years!). Most of the fighting took place in the Holy Roman Empire, although the war grew to include European powers outside of the Empire. What began as a local, religious conflict became more and more continental and political with each expanding phase of the war.
Calvinism, which was not established as a legal religion in the Empire by the Peace of Augsburg, spread throughout the Empire in spite of its prohibition, as Calvinists did not care whether their religion was legal or not. The spread of Calvinism threatened the tranquility of the Empire, as did places like Bohemia (modern-day Czech Republic), where the ruler’s religion was different from that of the majority of the population.
The Four Phases
The Bohemian Phase
Although ruled directly by the Catholic Hapsburgs, Bohemian Protestants enjoyed a generous level of religious toleration (by the standards of the time). A Hapsburg ruler had issued a Letter of Majesty to the Bohemian Protestants guaranteeing their freedom to practice their religion. This letter was revoked by Ferdinand II, a Jesuit-educated Hapsburg who had no interest in tolerating Protestantism in any form.
The conflict started with the Defenestration of Prague, in which two emissaries of the Holy Roman Emperor were thrown out of a window. The emissaries somehow survived the 70 foot drop - how they did depends on who you ask (Catholics maintained that they were saved by the Virgin Mary and angels, while Protestants later wrote that they fell into a massive dung heap.). Ferdinand took swift action against the rebels, defeating them decisively in the Battle of White Mountain (1620). The first phase of the Thirty Years’ War concluded with the Catholics squarely on top.
The Danish Phase
The King of Denmark - a Lutheran state immediately north of the Holy Roman Empire - responded by invading in order to help the Lutheran princes against the Emperor. This ended up being a colossal failure, as his expected allies didn’t give him aid they had promised and he had underestimated the strength of the Imperial armies. The Danish king retreated back into his own country with an army of Imperial mercenaries at his heels.
The Swedish Phase
The Protestant cause got a needed break when Gustavus Adolphus, the Lutheran King of Sweden, invaded the Holy Roman Empire at the head of a powerful army. Gustavus Adolphus has been called the “father of modern warfare,” being one of the first military commanders to make use of mobile artillery on the battlefield. He scored a decisive victory at the Battle of Breitenfield (1631), strengthening the Protestant cause.
The Balance of Power
In the 17th century, the Habsburgs were the most powerful family in Europe, controlling Austria, the Holy Roman Empire, Spain, the Netherlands, and various other territories strewn throughout Europe. France found itself surrounded by Hapsburg power and sought to change this by allying themselves with the Protestants (a deal with the devil?).
The French Phase
The Peace of Westphalia (1648)
By and large, the provisions of the Peace of Westphalia (1648) weakened the Holy Roman Emperor and established France as the dominant power in Western Europe. The Dutch Netherlands and Switzerland became independent and outside of Hapsburg influence, while France gained Alsace and Brandenburg - an ascendant Protestant kingdom in the Holy Roman Empire - gained territory, as well.
The Thirty Years’ War was the last major religious war in Europe and put an end to the violence accompanying the Protestant Reformation.
Click above to view the first part of my lecture on Hitler's Rise to Power.
The first part of the lecture starts at the beginning with Hitler's birth in Austria. As a boy, he encountered two philosophies that would impact him for the rest of his life: Pan-Germanism and Antisemitism. One of the most prominent politicians in Austria during Hitler's youth was Karl Lueger, the mayor of Vienna, whose Christian Social Party employed antisemitic propaganda in its campaign posters.
Hitler left Austria for Bavaria shortly before World War I and after the war broke out, he enlisted in the German Army. For a brief time after the war ended, Hitler continued his military service, embedding himself in the radical German Workers Party as a government agent. In this capacity, he became sympathetic to the party's anti-capitalist, anti-Marxist, and anti-Semitic messages and continued as an active member after he was discharged from the army.
Far-right parties like the German Workers Party embraced conspiracy theories, such as the "stabbed in the back" myth, which held Jews and Marxists responsible for the German defeat in World War I. Those who subscribed to this way of thinking believed that Germany had lost World War I because of internal enemies. After all, how else could Germany have been defeated by a coalition of British, French, and American forces representing two of the three largest industrialized nations of the day?
In 1920, the German Workers Party re-branded itself as the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). Hitler played a key role in expanding the radical party's appeal both in his capacity as a gifted public speaker and in designing the party's swastika logo himself. In 1921, Hitler was elected as the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party.
Hitler and the Nazi Party
Click above to view the second part of my lecture on Hitler's Rise to Power.
The 1920s transformed Hitler's National Socialist German Workers Party from a relatively unknown fringe party into one of the leading political parties in Germany. In 1923, the Nazis attempted a paramilitary coup known as the Beer Hall Putsch. This attempt to overthrow the German government by force was unsuccessful and led to the imprisonment of Hitler and other Nazi Party leaders. While in prison, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf (My Struggle), a two volume work that was part biography and part political manifesto. Mein Kampf became a hugely popular work that allowed Hitler to share his political ideology with the disaffected classes in Weimar Germany.
I am a history teacher who creates YouTube videos and instructional materials. I use this blog to publish lecture notes, book reviews, and personal reflections inspired by history, politics, and literature.
8 Month Writing Clinic
AP Euro Notes
AP European History
AP European History Exam
AP Euro Quiz
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AP US History
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APUSH War Of 1812
Compromise Of 1850
French Revolution Quiz
Road To Civil War
Thirty Years' War
War Of 1812