Let's kill Napoleon Bonaparte

27 November 2015 10:01

Suppose you had a time machine, and you were forbidden to kill Adolf Hitler. Suppose you still wanted to give our history the finger? Who would you kill, and what would happen? In this series I’m exploring a number of candidates for sudden and violent removal from history.

In this first installment, we’re taking a bag full of grenades, going back in time to January 1779, to Autun in Burgundy, France, and detonating them under the bed of the recently enrolled 9-year-old student Napoleone Buonaparte (he did not adopt the French spelling of his name until his 20s).

The Buonaparte family is devastated by the loss of their eldest son, and goes into extended mourning. His father’s health rapidly deteriorates, leading to his unfortunate death in 1783 rather than the original 1785, erasing his youngest son Jrme from the timeline, and along with him an entire line of Bonapartist pretenders to the French throne (though their claim died with Napoleon).

Fast-forwarding to the French Revolution, Napoleon’s role in the Italian campaign leads to France’s inability to weaken Austria’s Italian front, allowing them to keep their armies deployed in Germany. The treaty of Campo Formio is never signed, and Austria and Great Britain remain at war with France.

The Egyptian campaign never takes place, and Valetta is never bombed by Napoleon. As a result, Russia does not join the coalition. The Anglo-Russian invasion of Holland never takes place, allowing the French to consolidate their hold on the Low Countries and other client states.

Eventually, with the war against Austria turning into a stalemate, and French expansionist tendencies satisfied, a new treaty is signed in 1803.

France spends the next decade consolidating their conquests, turning to internal affairs rather than challenging their neighbors. Tensions with Austria cease. The Holy Roman Empire isn’t dissolved until several decades later, and Austria retains a leading role in it, providing counterweight to Prussian expansion, ultimately leading to victory in an analogue of the Battle of Kniggratz. Rather than uniting Germany, the former Holy Roman Empire gradually gets divided into a northern (Prussian) empire, and a southern (Austrian) empire, who remain each other’s greatest rivals. France continues to dominate its other neighbors (with the Low Countries becoming increasingly Gallicized), and relations with both Great Britain and Spain remain strained. As a result, they do not participate in the Crimean War along with Great Britain and the Ottoman Empire.

Alliances continue to be drawn across radically different lines. France eventually aligns with its former enemy Austria, while Prussia joins an alliance with Russia and Great Britain, eventually drawing all parties involved into a radically different Great War, with the United States joining France and Austria.

Perhaps I missed something crucial in my quick analysis? A significant event that changes the face of Europe in an even more radical way? Let me know how you think this would have turned out.