10

The Continental System

IN NOVEMBER 1806, NAPOLEON issued the Berlin Decree which declared that `the British Isles are in a state of blockade'; all commerce with them was prohibited, and all goods belonging to, or coming from, Great Britain and her colonies were to be seized. With the control of the North German ports, and with the adhesion of Russia and Austria after Tilsit, he was in a position to put teeth into the plan known as the Continental System.

Napoleon had inherited from the Revolution both the theory and practice of economic warfare. From 1793 the Convention had excluded British goods, and from 1803 onwards Napoleon had extended this exclusion into a `coast system' extending as far as Hanover. After Trafalgar, direct naval action against England was indefinitely postponed, but the economic weapon might yet bring her to her knees. In August 1807 Napoleon wrote of `her vessels laden with useless wealth wandering around the high seas, where they claim to rule as sole masters, seeking in vain from the Sound to the Hellespont for a port to open and receive them'. He told his brother King Louis of Holland, `I mean to conquer the sea by the land.'

The Continental System was aimed at exports, not im-

-155-

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Napoleon
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Corsican Background 15
  • 2 - The Turn of the Wheel 24
  • 3 - Victory in Italy 34
  • 4 - The Eastern Adventure 55
  • 5 - Brumaire and Marengo 68
  • 6 - First Consul 88
  • 7 - The New Charlemagne 103
  • 8 - Austerlitz and the Defeat of the Third Coalition 120
  • 9 - The Napoleonic Empire 131
  • 10 - The Continental System 155
  • 11 - The Spanish Ulcer 164
  • 12 - Wagram and the Awakening of Europe 173
  • 13 - Catastrophe in Russia 185
  • 14 - Leipzig and Abdication 200
  • 15 - The Hundred Days and Waterloo 217
  • 16 - St. Helena 236
  • 17 - The Napoleonic Legend 255
  • Appendix I - The Diagnosis of Napoleon''s Illness 267
  • Appendix II - The Death-Mask of Napoleon 269
  • Select Bibliography 271
  • Index 291
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