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date: 19 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The Napoleonic regimes, the Consulate of 1799–1804, and then the First French Empire from 1804 to 1815, have always proved baffling. Napoleon was anything but a convenient stereotype, and it stands to reason that his political creation soon comes apart in the hands of those who think in neat categories. This is not to say that close scrutiny cannot shed light on them, or even produce a reasonable definition of “Napoleonism” It is to say, however, that the path is not straight. Nevertheless, the fundamental role played by the Consulate and Empire in shaping modern Europe makes it all the more desirable to attempt to define them, if possible. True to this convoluted spirit of enquiry, any examination of the nature of Napoleonic rule, whether in the context of defining the Ancien Régime or not, must be undertaken with a cardinal caveat always in mind: The choice of the plural—Napoleonic regimes—is not pedantic. Napoleonic rule was ever evolving during its short life—hence its slippery nature.

Keywords: Napoleonic regimes, Ancien Régime, Consulate, French Empire, imperial regime, monarchy

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