Having established my definition of the French Revolution, it is first important not to gloss over without mention to the years 1793 – 1799, before going on to look at the nature of the Napoleonic regime itself.Inmy view these years can in essence be described as a crisis created by panic and a power vacuum.
For a long time after the revolution, the most dominant form historiography on the subject was the Marxist interpretation.
This interpretation went largely unchallenged until the 1950’s and the arrival of the first generation revisionists.
The execution of King Louis XVI in January 1793 created much panic within and outside France leading to foreign war and numerous insurgencies and political divisions inside France itself.
In these years France became almost ungovernable and the terror can be seen purely as a reaction to the threats the new French Republic was facing.
Many historians continue to define the revolution as the whole of the period 1789 – 1799.
Historians such as Geoffrey Ellis who points out how Napoleon himself declared at the Coup of Brumaire that: However I believe that the revolution is defined as the result of the power struggle between the old Ancien regime, and the newly emerging bourgeois middle class.
In order for this view to be qualified the next aspect we need to look at, is the various definitions and interpretations of the French Revolution.
Put simply the French Revolution was, when in 1789 the old Ancien regime was overthrown, and France went from a monarchy-governed state to a republic.
The revolution’s heir must be the regime that follows on from were the revolution left France, and presides over, or creates the kind of society the revolutionaries of 1789 intended to.
It is my belief that Napoleon and the Napoleonic regime did not either preside over or create this kind of society and as such Napoleon cannot be considered an heir to the French Revolution.