Napoleon Bonaparte and the Modern Implications of Waterloo

Early in the nineteenth century, Napoleon Bonaparte suffered defeat at the hands of Duke Wellington and his forces at the Battle of Waterloo. According to his memoirs, a young stranger had portended the fate of the battle before it even began. While Waterloo is often considered his greatest defeat, it may have been something more. The struggles of Napoleon Bonaparte have made him into one of history’s greatest celebrities, which may have implications for the modern world.

France still regards the former commander to be a sort of hero, but they are not alone in this regard. Many other nations still highly regard his name as well. As far as tyrants go, he was apparently one of the more likeable ones. He cared for economic growth and devised a legal code which is still practiced in some European nations as well as in Louisiana. Napoleon Bonaparte was a man with principles that some feel could better the world today. While he may not have always been so adored while he was alive, many people today feel that he could lead them into better times, The Spectator reports.

England is the nation which primarily still regards him as a tyrannical madman. This is partly due to their preference for Duke Wellington, so they naturally find it astounding that the tourist attractions at Waterloo favor Napoleon Bonaparte over the battle’s victor. Though small in stature, the French despot has grown into an incredibly tall tale. Nonetheless, it is his politics rather than his mythos which holds the grandest of implications for today’s world.

These implications lie in various nations’ perceptions of the European Union. At the time of Waterloo, England wanted some level of separation while other nations such as France and Belgium were trying to create a confederacy. To be fair, Napoleon Bonaparte wanted a confederacy that would more or less be ruled by him. Even so, his rule would have seen a unification of the continent which would in some ways be similar to the one which exists now.

This is where Napoleon Bonaparte receives sympathy from modern nations. The European Union has many critics, as does the French dictator, but ultimately there is a sense of unification that cannot be denied. Much as communism might have seemed a better idea were it not for men like Stalin, European unification under Napoleon Bonaparte might have been more appealing had he not tried to achieve it through militaristic means. It is thus the mind of the man which is revered, rather than his attempts at might. While not all may share this sentiment, there is no doubt that the principles which drove his Waterloo Campaign have struck a note with many modern citizens of France, Belgium, and other nations that feel there is a better way to unify Europe.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE