• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How important was the role of the British army in the defeat of France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars?

Extracts from this document...


How important was the role of the British army in the defeat of France in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars? While far smaller than the armies of many other European powers, by the turn of the century, the British army, through its tight discipline, sound command, and shrewd tactics, was still a force to be reckoned with. Despite early failures, such as the Duke of York's expeditions to the Netherlands, Wellington's efforts in the Peninsula were to prove invaluable, along with his command of the armies of the Fourth Coalition in the final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo. However, Britain's army was small, and the majority of land battles took place between Napoleon and the other Great Powers; Austria, Prussia and Russia, most notably at the Battle of the Nations in 1813, which lasted for an entire week. The Royal Navy arguably did more to aid the defeat of Napoleon, through her successful blockades and victories in battles such as Trafalgar. ...read more.


Supplied well by sea, and with a secure base behind impenetrable fortifications at Torres Vedras, Wellington could keep his army in fine condition, and beat larger French forces again and again. 1811 saw victories at Ciudad Rodrigo and Fuentes d'Onoro, and the following year Wellington again caused Napoleon heavy losses at Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz. These assaults on French positions in Spain were a constant drain on Napoleon's main army, depriving him of much needed men for other objectives. On his death bed Napoleon himself conceded that 'it was the Spanish ulcer that destroyed me'. 1812 is considered by many historians to be the turning point in Napoleon's fortunes. Wellington defeated the French at Salamanca, forcing King Joseph to abdicate, while Russia turned against Napoleon, resulting in the loss of 600,000 French soldiers at the Battle of Borodino. This roused Prussia and Austria, who joined Russia in Leipzig at the Battle of the Nations in 1813, to defeat Napoleon's army. ...read more.


While making important contributions, the role of Britain's army was far from decisive in France's defeat. During the Revolutionary War, the army made little or no impact, and, but for the last year, Britain's army was active only in the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic War. However, it would be a mistake to underestimate the contributions made by our land forces. When Wellington first set out in the Peninsula, Napoleon's army was regarded as well-nigh invincible by the Continental Powers, who had suffered numerous defeats at its hands. Wellington's Peninsula campaign proved to Europe that the French could be defeated on land, and, along with Napoleon's losses in Russia, inspired a rejuvenated Prussia and Austria to rejoin the battle. Waterloo, the final battle of the Napoleonic War, was fought under British command in the shape of Wellington, and with British soldiers making up the majority of the force. The highly successful Peninsula campaign dented both morale and numbers in Napoleon's army, and diverted troops needed in other areas. While the British army certainly helped in the defeat of Napoleonic France, it was by no means the decisive factor. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Modern European History, 1789-1945 section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Modern European History, 1789-1945 essays

  1. "To what extent did napoleon lose the battle of Waterloo due to his own ...

    Suffering from battle-shock and being weary of war, Ney followed his own policy of caution, on June 16 that badly disrupted Napoleon's plans of attack. Grouchy was another poor choice for commander of the right wing. Being a cavalry officer he had little experience in leading troops and was by no means a strategic genius.

  2. Why did the Franco-Prussian war happen and why were the Prussians able to defeat ...

    and " but railway development had been slow in France." (Grenville) Both these quotes show that France was not advancing in growth as fast as Prussia was and Prussia was gaining an economic and military advantage over France in this respect because with a richer economy there were more funds

  1. Why did Napoleon lose the Battle of Waterloo?

    Almost immediately after he resumed the throne, Napoleon found himself ringed by guns. The Congress of Vienna had acted quickly when they heard of Napoleon's escape and all the major powers had contributed 150 000 troops to an invasion force to assemble in Belgium near the French border.

  2. How significant a role did the British navy play in the French Revolutionary and ...

    Nelson's navy was well fed and healthy which enabled them to fight well. The French and Spanish fleets were not fed well and disease spread throughout their crews. Nelson's navy was also paid well which was a good incentive for people to join, and combined with Nelson's patriotic motivation sailors were willing to fight for their country.

  1. How did Britain defeat France during the Napoleonic wars?

    Another great contribution of the royal navy can be seen during the peninsular war when it deployed troops and also made supplies to British troops along the coasts of Spain and Portugal. The acquisition of new colonies in the West Indies immensely opened up new frontiers to British economic activities

  2. How far did Napoleon Bonaparte maintain the revolutionary ideals of liberty and equality in ...

    Citizens were now free to purchase land. According to Georges Lefebvre, this was conceived in the interest of the bourgeoisie as it was concerned primarily with consecrating and sanctifying the rights of property which it regarded as a natural right, anterior to society, absolute and belonging to the individual and it gave the possessor the title to ownership.

  1. "To what extent was French defeat at the battle of Waterloo due to Napoleons ...

    fault for not choosing the right men for the right job; he didn't play to their strengths. A historian writes, "As overall commander whatever mistakes made under him reflect on him, therefore he must have accepted the blame for the overall defeat."6 This view contradicts many of the other historians7,

  2. Explain the role of Czechoslovakia in the appeasement story.

    Hitler was not planning get involved in Czechoslovakia yet and said so. But it seemed that Benes had won a political battle because it looked like Hitler had backed down. Therefore, Hitler was furious that Benes had gained extra prestige so Hitler wanted to really deal the Czech problem as soon as possible.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work