David A. Bell, 3 December 2020
The Napoleonic Wars were in no sense purely European events. They involved individuals from around the world and had worldwide ramifications. They left a stamp on everything from the westward expansion of the United States to the independence of the Latin American nations to the geopolitical dominance of the British Empire in the 19th century. Napoleon’s own ambitions reached far beyond the European continent. ‘I wanted to rule the world,’ he told Benjamin Constant in 1815. ‘Who wouldn’t have done, in my place?’Historians have always been aware of these ramifications. It’s familiar knowledge that the westward expansion of the US began when Napoleon decided to sell it the vast Louisiana Territory and that Latin American independence movements took off after his invasions of Portugal and Spain, which meant they could no longer control their colonies. But the wars in Europe already make for a dauntingly complex subject.