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6-8 > World History
Grade level: 6-8 Subject: World History Duration: Two class periods
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Conquerors: Napoleon

Students will understand the following:
1. The French people accepted Napoleon as a dictator two times even though they had recently gone through a revolution against monarchy.

For this lesson, you will need:
ē Internet access
ē Reference works on the history of France and Napoleon

1. Divide students into committees of three or four so that they can have small-group discussions about Napoleonís attempt to regain power in 1815, after his exile of 1814 to Elba.
2. First, the students on each committee should gather more details on Napoleonís defeat and exile in 1814. Ask students to discern the responses of various French men and women to those developments. To carry out this research, the students on each committee should identify reference sources and distribute them among themselves; each student on a committee should be responsible for reading and taking notes from one or more sources, with the entire committee covering all the identified sources.
3. Have students brainstorm to come up with the kinds of resources they should locate and examine, beginning perhaps with a thorough encyclopedia article about Napoleon.
4. Next, ask students to imagine that they are living in France in 1815 at various levels of society. Within the small groups, each student should state whether he or she would welcome Napoleon back to the position of emperor in France. Each student must also give reasons for holding his or her opinion on Napoleonís return.
5. Instruct students to reach their individual statements by considering the following:
  • The goals and ideals of the French Revolution
  • Napoleonís accomplishments and failures up to 1814
  • The return of the monarchy under Louis XVIII
6. The goal of each committee is to create a consensus out of the views of its three or four members. That is, members of a committee may start off holding opposed positions about Napoleonís return but should arrive at one and only one position.
7. One member of each committee should present the committeeís final decision to the class. Then give the several committee spokespeople time to work out and announce a joint statement on whether Napoleon should be allowed to return to France in 1815.
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Adaptations for Older Students:
Extend ďOne Reign or Two?Ē by engaging students in a what-if discussion, asking them to consider how differently, if at all, France might have developed had Napoleon not been defeated at Waterloo.
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Discussion Questions

1. Discuss how Napoleonís background, early experiences in school, and the times in which he lived may have affected his character and leadership style. In the end, what part of his character do you think led to his downfall?
2. Explain the debate between aristocrats and philosophers over monarchy and democracy during the revolutionary period in France. Which side would you say Napoleon was on?
3. Analyze Napoleonís role in the French Revolution and his speedy rise to power. What were his talents?
4. What were Napoleonís first tasks as dictator? Explain and discuss why they were important.
5. Why do you think the French people accepted Napoleon as their sole leader not once but twice? After all, hadnít they just fought a revolution to end the monarchy in France?
6. Compare and contrast both times Napoleon was exiled. Was he wise to try to return to power from Elba? What do you think should happen to defeated leaders today?
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ďOne Reign or Two?Ē gives you an opportunity to watch students in small-group interaction. Make notes about studentsí ability to cooperate, treat one another respectfully, participate without monopolizing, and compromise.
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Napoleonic Code
One of Napoleonís first tasks as a dictator was to simplify the French legal system by writing the Napoleonic Code. Have your students research the Napoleonic Code and discuss its lasting impactófor example, in todayís Louisiana. You may wish to have students compare and contrast the code to other comprehensive legal codes they have learned about (for example, Hammurabiís and Justinianís codes).

Portraits of the Emperor
Napoleonís reign was well recorded in art. Have your students use the Internet and illustrated reference works to take a close look at such art. Ask them to write about and then discuss how Napoleon has been depicted.
Each student should pick one painting and write a report on what it shows, paying attention to the following features:
  • Napoleonís expression
  • Napoleonís body language
  • The setting
  • Napoleonís clothing
  • Other people in the painting
  • Napoleonís actions in the painting
  • Items in the painting with symbolic meaning
Students should also try to find out the circumstances of the paintingís commission. Did Napoleon himself commission the painting?
Each report should conclude with a statement on what the piece of art says about how Napoleon was viewed or viewed himself at various times during his reign.

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Suggested Readings

Napoleon Bonaparte
Alan Schom. HarperCollins, 1997.
Based on a 10 years of research, this complete single-volume biography captures the spectacular rise and dizzying fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. Includes 75 photos and 15 maps.

Napoleon Bonaparte
Leslie McGuire and Dina Anastasio. InWorld Leaders: Past and Presentseries. Chelsea House, 1987.
This is a biography of the self-appointed emperor of the French whose empire covered most of western and central Europe.

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Napoleon I - Emperor of France 1769 - 1821
A brief biography on Napoleon, this page contains links to other pages on European monarchs.

The Napoleon Series
An electronic magazine dedicated to Napoleon and his times, this site is a comprehensive look at the French emperor. Scholarly papers as well as info on the music and literature of the times are available.

Napoleon Bonaparte (A Chronology)
The page is a biography of Napoleon. Each year mentioned on the page is linked to a timeline of Napoleanís life and career.

Military History
An excellent Canadian government site on military history, it includes resources on the Napoleonic Wars.

The War Times Journal: Napoleanic Wars Series
Napoleon links are part of this War Times Journal webzine on military history.

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Click on any of the vocabulary words below to hear them pronounced and used in a sentence.

speaker    abdicate
Definition:To formally relinquish a sovereign power.
Context:On April 6, 1814, a humiliated emperor is forced to abdicate the throne.

speaker    armistice
Definition:Temporary suspension of hostilities by agreement between the opponents.
Context:Napoleon has driven the Austrians back and secured an armistice, a peace treaty that gives France thousands of miles of new territory.

speaker    artillery
Definition:A branch of an army armed with crew-served mounted firearms.
Context:Napoleon is commissioned as second lieutenant in the artillery, a fortuitous choice since new advances in weaponry and tactics are about to rewrite history.

speaker    coup
Definition:The violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group.
Context:Napoleonís allies stage a coup and seize control of the government.

speaker    guillotine
Definition:A machine for beheading by means of a heavy blade that slides down in vertical guides.
Context:In 1793, Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are marched to the guillotine and beheaded.

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This lesson plan may be used to address the academic standards listed below. These standards are drawn from Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education: 2nd Edition and have been provided courtesy of theMid-continent Research for Education and Learningin Aurora, Colorado.
Grade level:6-8, 9-12
Subject area:world history
Understands the causes and consequences of political revolutions in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
(6-8)Knows the consequences of Napoleonís invasions (e.g., the impact of Napoleonís invasion of Iberia and growing British power in the Atlantic basin on the independence movements in Latin America, the events surrounding Napoleonís invasion of Portugal, the flight of the Portuguese court to Brazil).

(6-8)Understands events and ideas that influenced the course of the French Revolution (e.g., how the revolution developed from constitutional monarchy to democratic despotism to the Napoleonic empire; the organization of the Estates-General and its merits and limitations; central ideas and origins of the Declaration of Rights of Man and Citizen).

(6-8)Understands how the French Revolution changed social conditions in France (e.g., how the revolution changed political and religious institutions, social relations, education, family life, and the legal and political position of women; how territorial changes were made in Europe between 1789 and 1815 and their consequences for diverse social groups such as clergy, nobility, peasantry, bourgeoisie, and sans-culottes).

(9-12)Understands the political beliefs and writings that emerged during the French Revolution (e.g., characteristics and actions of radical, liberal, moderate, conservative, and reactionary thinking; the ideas in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen and Olympe de Gougeís Declaration of the Rights of Women and the Female Citizen; the implications of the Code Napoleon for Protestant and Catholic clergy, property owners, workers, and women of the agricultural and industrial revolutions from 1700 to 1850).

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Lara Maupin, history and anthropology teacher, Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Alexandria, Virginia.
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