Few would have predicted that a Corsican nationalist would go on to lead and dominate France and Europe—however, the French revolution provided Napoleon with the opportunity, and he took it.
Napoleon is worth studying because of his extraordinary leadership abilities. This article by Harrison W. Mark in World History Encyclopaedia makes the following points about Napoleon:
- Napoleon was a Corsican born to minor nobility.
- France purchased Corsica from the Italians a year before Napoleon was born.
- He grew up torn between Corsican nationalism and support for the French Revolution.
- Napoleon's father, Carlo Buonaparte, ultimately supported the French, enabling Napoleon to be educated at the prestigious French military Academy, the Ecole Militaire
- At the Academy, he was a loner with a "thoughtful and gloomy" nature, unpopular with classmates but good at poetry and history.
- He remained a Corsican nationalist.
- As an artillery lieutenant, he continued writing and attempted to get his work published.
- Supported the French Revolution of 1789 as embodying his Enlightenment ideals.
- The National Assembly made Corsica a self-governing Department of France and solved his nationalist dilemma.
- In 1792 he was elected a lieutenant colonel in the Corsican National Guard.
- Napoleon had a lucky escape while suppressing a revolt in Corsica—as his colleague was shot dead.
- Writing a pamphlet supporting the revolution gave him key revolutionary connections.
- Napoleon established his military brilliance at the Siege of Toulon and was promoted to brigadier-general at age 24.
- By being at the right place at the right time, he survived the reign of terror that led to the death of his patrons.
- He efficiently put down an uprising in Paris by using cannon on the protestors,
- He was given command of the French Army of Italy and eventually leveraged that military success into gaining political control of France and becoming Emperor.
- Napoleon's early career can be summed up in his being in the right place at the right time and taking advantage of his good fortune through extraordinary military ability and leadership qualities.
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Source Information: World History Encyclopedia