Napoleon's Land Grab

Following his disastrous Russian campaign, the emperor of France needed money quickly. The desperate measures he took are revealed by Noelle Plack.

Desperate: Napoleon, portrayed following his abdication in 1814 by Delaroche. Vente noticeOf all the Napoleonic anniversaries to be commemorated in the next few years, one that is very likely to be forgotten is his land grab of 1813. A relatively obscure law, passed on March 20th that  year, allowed the French state to seize and sell off plots of village common land. It is no coincidence that this legislation appeared a few months after the disastrous retreat from Moscow. The empire’s financial affairs were deteriorating as more and more funds were being consumed by military spending. It is estimated that 60 per cent of the 1807 budget was spent on Napoleon’s military exploits, but by 1813 the figure was 80 per cent. The Russian campaign alone had a price tag of 700 million francs. With this tremendous strain on the nation’s finances it is not surprising that the deficit increased each year.

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