If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content

Napoleon and the War of the Third Coalition

Napoleon leads France to become the dominant power in Europe. Napoleon I becomes Emperor of France. Created by Sal Khan.

Want to join the conversation?

  • old spice man green style avatar for user Bo Salyer
    Is it true that Napoleon briefly ended the Spanish Inquisition?
    (26 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • male robot hal style avatar for user Eli
      Yes it is true, Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon's brother became king of Spain and completely ended the Spanish inquisition and let the prisoners go free. This was due to his dislike of then Pope Pius VII who was responsible for the inquisition.
      (35 votes)
  • spunky sam blue style avatar for user Paul Kang
    I know this question may sound stupid, but Sal keeps mentioning that Voltaire called the Holy Roman Empire, "neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire." Who's Voltaire?
    (12 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • male robot hal style avatar for user shreyas100302
      Voltaire, pseudonym of François-Marie Arouet (born November 21, 1694, Paris, France—died May 30, 1778, Paris) one of the greatest of all French writers. Although only a few of his works are still read, he continues to be held in worldwide repute as a courageous crusader against tyranny, bigotry, and cruelty. Through its critical capacity, wit, and satire, Voltaire’s work vigorously propagates an ideal of progress to which people of all nations have remained responsive. His long life spanned the last years of classicism and the eve of the revolutionary era, and during this age of transition his works and activities influenced the direction taken by European civilization.
      (6 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Doug Slipknot Skinner
    After eight years of fighting Napoleon (since Italy in 1796) what made the Austrians believe they could act in such a tardy manner: ie) The movement to ULM was ponderously slow made by one Army.Why advance into Bavaria rather than wait for Kutusovs army ? Why did General Karl Mack concentrate at ULM?? I know that this was the theoretical position of meeting of Austrian and Russians as per there Grand Plan: but considering they knew how fast Napoleons Corps could move and knew the mans talents why did they not make a junction through a timely withdrawal of Macks Army?? i realise that Napoleon caught them on the hop but it was still a month of movement prior to ULM. It seems that this greatest of victories was as much a Austrian and Russian debacle(i do not detract)as a great victory: they did everything wrong that could be done wrong.
    (18 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user FireflyClass
      Karl Mack did try to get out of Ulm, but his officers and men were disillusioned with him, and probably didn't want to fight for him anymore. And according to the 3rd Coalition's 'Grand Strategy' Mack should NOT have moved into Bavaria until Kutuzov had joined up with him.
      Also Mack wasn't the most talented of generals and it seems he was slightly insubordinate.
      Hope this helps.
      (3 votes)
  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Ariana Jackson
    Was it just Haiti and Louisiana that were under France's control? What happened with Canada? What time period did the French have territory there?
    (8 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • blobby green style avatar for user T.H.M.
      Good Question Ariana! Yes, the French had controlled parts of what is now Canada in the 1600s and 1700s. The French had started settlement in 1604 at Saint Croix Island, in what is now Maine. However, it was the founding of Quebec City in 1608 that true major French occupation started. The French would loose Canada during the Seven Years War in 1759 when it was taken over by the British. By the time of Napoleon, the French did not control Canada.

      I hope this helps :)
      (17 votes)
  • female robot amelia style avatar for user badboykittis
    Even when nelson died did Napoleon lose the war?
    (5 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • leafers seed style avatar for user SylviaSchade
    I can't seem to comprehend why/how France let Napoleon get away with crowning himself Emperor and why they allowed him this power for a decade. I know France was in the middle of a revolution and was quite divided in terms of loyalties, but surely there would have been enough resistance to limit him? Was it because of his military achievements? Was it because he was a contributor to public good? I just don't understand why France kept him around for so long...
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • leaf green style avatar for user Derek Edrich
      Well, in addition to his military achievements, he was the first more-or-less decent and popular ruler they had, so people liked him and wanted him to stay in power (This is extremely evident after his return from exile in Elba). Louis the 16th had been ineffective (the whole "let them eat cake" his wife[Marie Antoinette] said), the first goverments (National Assembly/Legeslative Assembly)after that turned into the Reign of Terror, and the Directorate had been so-so(and overthrown by Napoleon).
      (6 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Alejandro Aguilar Pelcastre
    I've heard that the battle of Austerlitz was the greatest victory of Napoleon. I know he had many victories, so why would that in particular be the greatest?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • sneak peak blue style avatar for user WashingtoN8
    At , did Britain lose any ships in the battle of Trafalgar? If so, how many?
    (4 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Linda Tong
    Why did they have a French calendar? How did they come up with the idea?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
  • primosaur sapling style avatar for user Nguyen Hieu
    I have 2 questions. Did Napoleon managed to solve the foods problems for the people of France during this time period? And how can he crowded himself Emperor and the people still accept his reign even though we all know the people really hate Monarchy and they've been trying to forge a republic ?
    (2 votes)
    Default Khan Academy avatar avatar for user
    • marcimus pink style avatar for user BookShard
      No, Napoleon didn't really solve the food problems.
      And he didn't actually make out that he was a monarch. He was called Emperor and not King for precisely that reason, and he was called "Empereur des Français" rather than even "Empereur de France" to make an even greater distinction between his own title and "Roi de France". In the beginning, the people did have more of a say but he gradually gained more and more power, and he and his advisors were quite sly and manipulative. He also had this charisma that just MADE people want to obey him. That was his greatest hold over the people.
      Also, calling France an Empire sounded grand and impressive, thus creating a type of illusion of prosperity and success.
      (4 votes)

Video transcript

Let's review a little bit of what Napoleon was up to going into the war of the Third Coalition, which really does establish Napoleon as the dominant figure in Europe. So in 1799, he takes power. First with two other consuls, but then he declares himself First Consul. So he takes power. He becomes First-- let me put that in capital letters-- First Consul. Then in 1802, actually before I get to 1802. Let me say what he did in 1800. Remember when he took power, we were still in the war of the Second Coalition. We talked about that a little bit. France had lost ground, they had lost a lot of what they had gained in the First Coalition in Italy. The Austrians had taken it back. So Napoleon decides to take charge, cross the Alps. This is a picture of Napoleon crossing the Alps. Leading the troops into the Alps to take back what he felt needed to be taken back from Austria. And then we learned in the last video that that essentially is what ended the First Coalition. So in 1800 he takes back or leaves to take back Italy. And when we talk about Italy, we're really talking about the Kingdom of Italy, which was northern Italy. We're not talking about the Kingdom of Naples, which was southern Italy. Or the Papal States. Actually let me show you that. If we go all the way down here. You'll see when people talk about the Kingdom of Italy in this period of time, they're really talking about this region up here, which is really northern Italy. The Papal States are right here. And you had your Kingdom of Naples down there. Compared to modern Europe, the two countries that we associate with Europe today that really didn't exist in a unified form in the early 1800s were Italy and Germany. They were really just broken up into a bunch of kingdoms. And as I mentioned before, Germany at this point, that confederation of kingdoms was kind of referred to as the Holy Roman Empire where the King of Austria had the title of Holy Roman Emperor. But he didn't control the Holy Roman Empire in a very centralized fashion. It was actually controlled by a bunch of smaller kings. But anyway, let's go back to Napoleon. So that's him crossing the Alps in 1800. That ends when he takes it back. He defeats Austria. That is essentially the end of the Second Coalition. We learned that in the last video. 1801. You had your Treaty of Luneville. End of Second Coalition. They don't have a treaty with Great Britain until the next year, really just out of attrition. But that doesn't matter, it was a very short-lived treaty. And then in 1802, before we start talking about the Third Coalition, Napoleon gets the Constitution of the Year X passed. And why do you say year 10? Remember, they had this whole revolutionary calendar going. So in the revolutionary calendar this was the 10th year of the Revolution. But what's really relevant from Napoleon's point of view is article one. It says, the French people name and the senate proclaims Napoleon Bonaparte First Consul for life. So, if you want to view this is kind of legally giving Napoleon almost a king-like status, it writes it in words that he will rule France for the rest of his life. Then we get to 1803. And actually, before I get to 1803, remember what's happening at the same time here. You had your Revolution in Haiti, which, if you remember from those videos, Haiti was the most profitable slave colony in the world. Once the slaves revolted, got their freedom, all of a sudden not as profitable to France as it was before. And remember, the whole French Revolution started off because France was broke. So Napoleon tries to reinstate slavery. That essentially backfires on him. Dessalines catches wind of it, him and the other revolutionaries. So they essentially start antagonizing Leclerc even more. Leclerc and the French occupiers get ravaged by yellow fever. And Dessalines is a very aggressive general. So he starts losing Haiti. You have Rochambeau, if you remember from those videos, he's this hugely brutal figure who takes over after Leclerc. But we have this revolution in Haiti. And you can kind of say they're starting to lose Haiti. And at the same time, and this is 1802, and as we're entering into 1803, Napoleon begins to realize that Great Britain controls the seas. Great Britain dominant navy. And because they're losing Haiti, which is really their main profit center, and Great Britain is dominant, Napoleon essentially gives up on North America. So outside of Haiti, which was this major profit center for the French Empire, they also had the territory of Louisiana, which is essentially the middle 1/3 of what we now consider to be the United States. And Napoleon figures out, gee, Great Britain has a dominant navy. I'm giving up on Haiti. I'm probably going to lose it anyway to Dessalines. Let me just give up on the entire continent. If I don't sell Louisiana, either Great Britain or the United States will probably be in a good position to take it from me. So he decides to sell Louisiana. So just as someone, or as an American, and especially an American who was born in Louisiana, it's fascinating the chain of events that led up to this. Because when you learn it from an American history point of view, you just say hey Thomas Jefferson, he was able to get Louisiana for $15 million. Why would someone sell, all of a sudden, this huge amount of territory? And the reason is because Napoleon figured he was going to lose it no matter what. Great Britain had this dominant navy. And at the same time, he had nothing else to protect in the area. The other major valuable asset there was Haiti. So a combination of Great Britain having this navy and of the slave revolt in Haiti ends up within the United States being able to acquire what's now the middle 1/3 of the continent. You can kind of wonder, if they never did that, would they have ever a gone on to capture the entire west coast? So these small little things in history. And I wouldn't necessarily call these little things, but they lead to very tremendous changes in our modern world. Anyway, enough about that. So he sells Louisiana. Great Britain has a dominant navy. At first, Napoleon was amassing troops up here, he was thinking about an invasion of Great Britain. But more and more it dawns on him that Great Britain has a dominant navy. Great Britain, I think, starts to feel a little self-confident. And they don't like all of the gains that Napoleon has gotten in the last two wars. So, Great Britain declares war in 1803, in May 1803. Or I could say United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the same thing. U.K. declares war. And you could view this as the beginning of the war of the Third Coalition. But it's not a coalition yet. It's just the United Kingdom. Or it's just Great Britain. And it really gets heated in 1805. Everyone else jumps in. And now we're talking about a real coalition. Now Great Britain is joined by Austria and Russia. And Austria, all the time in every one of these coalitions, they lose territory to France and especially Napoleon. They just want to get revenge. United Kingdom kind of senses that they control the water, they want to get revenge. Russia doesn't like this upstart Napoleon. And so they all jump in. And so there's two interesting angles of the War of the Third Coalition. Let me write this right here. This is the Third Coalition. And there were other people who jumped in, but these were the major powers. So this right here is the Third Coalition. So the first thing that happens, or really the two almost happen simultaneously. In October of 1805, the French navy gets destroyed by the British in the Battle of Trafalgar. This is Trafalgar, it's actually written here. And they get destroyed by Napoleon's good old friend, Admiral Horatio Nelson. So this guy was definitely a thorn in Napoleon's side. He destroyed Napoleon's ships in the Battle of the Nile that stranded their troops in Egypt. And now he comes and essentially destroys the French navy at the Battle of Trafalgar. And this is an image of it. And I guess the only redeeming fact of this battle for Napoleon was that near the end of the battle, Horatio Nelson actually gets stricken by a bullet and he dies at Trafalgar. So the Royal Navy, the British navy was already dominant, destroying the French navy, which was the only navy that could in some way compete on any level. Destroying them at Trafalgar really established British domination of the seas. This is actually an image of the Battle of Trafalgar. This is the battle right there. A bunch of ships just shooting at each other, you can't really make out what's happening. And just to connect that to modern day Great Britain, or the modern day London, this right here is an image of Trafalgar Square. It is named after the Battle of Trafalgar, which established Britain is dominant in the seas. That is Trafalgar Square in London. And if you go there, you will see Nelson's column. This is Nelson's column right there, named after Horatio Nelson. And at the very top of it, there's a little figure, or it's probably pretty large, but little relative to the column, of Horatio Nelson himself. So that was a bit of an aside, but this occurred during the war of the Third Coalition. So Napoleon's navy is destroyed. But he doesn't give up. He's just like, OK, oh well, I can't do much beyond Europe, but in Europe I can still do a lot of damage. So what he does is he takes his troops. He had given up on actually attacking Britain by sea. He realized that he could never realistically do that. Let me show you the troop movements that were going on at this time. So he had troops here that he had given up on actually attacking Great Britain. And what he does is he meets the Austrians. So the Austrians are amassing their troops here. They actually thought that there was a possibility that the main campaign would go in Italy. So they actually focused most of their troops there, that we'll see as a major mistake. But they have troops in what is now southern Germany near the Black Forest. And then they also amassed some troops near Italy. And then the Russians were coming up behind. They weren't able to meet. And we're dealing with the fall, this is now September, October of 1805. And the Russians were back here trying to bring their troops to assist the Austrians in meeting Napoleon. And all of these, it's always unclear on how much of it was tactical genius versus pure luck. Because they didn't have satellites, they didn't know where the other troops were. They didn't necessarily know exactly what's happening on a minute-by-minute basis, like armies do today. But what happened, and it's one of the pivotal battles in European history, is that Napoleon meets the Austrians at Ulm. Let me draw it on this map right here. So on this map they just do a very general-- This is Napoleon meeting the Austrians right here at Ulm. There's actually a whole campaign of Ulm, several battles. But it was a decisive victory at Ulm. And the crux of that victory was that Napoleon was able to fool the Austrians. So this is a zoomed-in version of what was going on here. This is France. This is the Black Forest. This is Austria right there. Blue is Napoleon troops, red are the Austrian troops. And you saw, Austria had amassed most of their troops on the Italian front. So here in Black Forest, you have your Austrian troops. What Napoleon did is he had General Marat make it look like the main force of the French were coming straight from the West. And they did that by having cavalry essentially giving the appearance of a major force coming in from here. So the Austrians were thinking, OK, this is the direction that we're going to face our main antagonism from. But at the same time, the bulk of the Napoleon's army-- remember he doesn't see exactly how many people are here, they just made it look like this is the bulk of the army. But the bulk of the army actually did what they call a wheeling manoeuvre, where they went around the Austrian army. And they were able to do it much faster and in a much more nimble way than anyone would have predicted. Because they essentially didn't have to carry as many supplies. They were doing this during the harvest season. And this was by design. If you capture enemy territory during the harvest season, and these are things that you usually don't think about when you learn about military battles. But you've got troops, you've got to feed the troops. If they can't capture food from the land, then you've got to carry supplies with you. And supplies are heavy it slows down your army. But if you do the attack during the harvest season, you don't have to carry food. You can just take it from the farmers that you pass by. They're harvesting food as you pass by, you just take it, you can be fast and nimble. And he essentially went around the army and was able to attack the Austrians from this direction. And then essentially destroy them. And this is why I hinted in the last video that Napoleon starts to view himself as invincible. And this was before the Russians could come to actually reinforce the Austrians. So they did it-- by being able to do it so quickly, they were able to just only tackle the Austrians. So it was a decisive victory at Ulm. Let me go to the painting right there. This is a painting of the surrender at Ulm. And then the combined Russian and Austrian forces, they essentially regrouped, but they re-met Napoleon's forces after Ulm. In another several weeks, at Austerlitz. And once again, Napoleon just routed them. And there's always a debate. Some of it might have been tactical genius, some of it might have been pure luck. But after routing them at Austerlitz-- so this is Austerlitz-- and taking so much I guess both in terms of casualties and prisoners from the enemy without incurring so much themselves, this really was the high point in terms of a battle for Napoleon. Austerlitz is what really convinced Napoleon that he is truly, truly a military genius. And that's not saying that he's not. But it was such a rout that he started to imagine that he's on some level invincible. And so the outcome, this essentially ends the war of the Third Coalition. And with that ending, Austria had to give its territory that it had gotten in Italy. So Austria had to cede the territory that it had in Italy, some of the territory that it had in Bavaria. And from, I guess just a general point of view, this was historically significant. Because until this point in time, this whole area was called the Holy Roman Empire, with the King of Austria calling himself the Holy Roman Emperor. Even though he didn't have direct control over all of these Germanic regions. Let me go back up here. This is in 1805, or we can even say we're entering 1806, but in late 1805, with the end of the Third Coalition, now the Austrian King no longer calls himself the Holy Roman Emperor. He gives up the title. And this region right here is no longer called the Holy Roman Empire. It is called the Confederation of the Rhine. And it's essentially under the protection of Napoleon. And this is the first time-- we're starting to get to a point, Germany won't be unified for another 60 or 70 years. But we're starting to get to the point that the German nation is escaping from the bounds of being the Holy Roman Empire. And so it's getting in that direction. So the Holy Roman Empire is gone. France gets significant territory from Austria, once again. Russia on some level is just humbled a little bit. And then we end in 1806, or at the end of 1805, with France dominant. And while all of that was happening, it was really in 1804 when France was only at war with Great Britain. The whole alliance hadn't formed yet. It 1804, in December-- and this is relevant that it's a peek into his ego. So this is the year before Austerlitz. In 1804, Napoleon declares himself, or he crowns himself Emperor. And this is a picture of him as Emperor. And after this point, instead of being called Napoleon Bonaparte, he is called Napoleon I. And the idea of crowning yourself Emperor, you might say, what's the point? You already were Consul for life, you have power for your whole life. But other than you get this neat title emperor, which probably feeds your ego quite well, but beyond that, this essentially establishes a dynasty. It now says, I'm not just a First Consul, I am the emperor. I'm Napoleon I. And it implies that his descendants will continue to reign over the French Empire. So on some level, he kind of destroys the notion of a republic. So we're ending the Third Coalition with France is dominant in Europe. It has gotten all of this territory mainly from Austria. The Holy Roman Empire no longer exists. It's now the Confederation of the Rhine. Napoleon, after Austerlitz, thinks that he is invincible. And he also is now Emperor. So all of his visions of grandeur are coming true.