Political cartoon depicting British Prime Minister William Pitt and Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte slicing up the globe
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- Platform: Zoom
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Between 1792 and 1815 Europe was in turmoil. The French Revolution unleashed a torrent of political, social, cultural, and military changes, which Napoleon extended beyond the country’s frontiers. The ensuing struggle was immense in its scale and intensity. Never before had European states resorted to a mobilization of civilian and military resources as total as during this period. Its scale and impact dwarfed all other European conflicts and it came to be known as the “Great War.”
Historian Alexander Mikaberidze tells the story of the Napoleonic Wars and explains how European affairs did not unfold in isolation from the rest of the globe. The names of Austerlitz, Trafalgar, Leipzig, and Waterloo all hold prominent places in the standard histories of the Napoleonic Wars. But also significant in the story are Buenos Aires, New Orleans, Ruse, Aslanduz, Assaye, Macao, Oravais, and Alexandria.
9:30-10:45 a.m. The Revolution and the War
The French Revolution inspired the first general European war since the Seven Years’ War a half century earlier. Revolutionary ideals and institutions were spread by force and by emulation, and the language and practices to which they gave rise have helped to forge modern political culture. With Gen. Napoleon Bonaparte’s rise to power, France’s war aims reverted to more traditional policies of territorial expansion and continental hegemony seen under the Bourbon kings.
11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. “The Elephant vs. Whale”
The long-standing Franco-British rivalry exerted considerable influence on the course of the Napoleonic Wars. The two powers struggled for dominance not only in Europe but also in the Americas, Africa, India, Indonesia, and the Philippines, as well across the Atlantic and the Indian oceans.
12:15-1:30 p.m. Lunch break (participants can either stay in the webinar or leave and return)
1:30-2:45 p.m. Toward the New Middle East
The Revolutionary era witnessed momentous changes unfolding in the Islamic world. European rivalries in Egypt, the Balkan Peninsula, Caucasus, and Iran produced major political, economic, and social upheavals in the Ottoman Empire, and Iran and laid the foundation for the “Eastern Question” dilemma that shaped Middle Eastern affairs for the rest of the century.
3-4:15 p.m. The Remaking of an Atlantic World
As the French, British and Spanish empires included the young American republic in their vigorous competition, the story of the Napoleonic Wars in the Atlantic world is that of seismic changes that continue to reverberate. The story comprises the Louisiana Purchase and the War of 1812; the Haitian Revolution, and the collapse of the Spanish colonial empire and creation of a new political reality in the Latin America.
Mikaberidze, a specialist in the Revolutionary era, holds the Ruth Herring Noel Endowed Chair for the Curatorship of the James Smith Noel Collection at Louisiana State University—Shreveport. His book, The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History (Oxford University Press) is available for sale.
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This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.