The Italian Peninsula: Its New Face under Napoleon

Alex Grab, USA


In April 1796 Napoleon Bonaparte led a French army into northern Italy, thereby launching what is known in Italian history the venntennio francese (The French Twenty Years). Actually, the epoca francese lasted only for eighteen years and came to an

end in 1814 when the Napoleonic regime itself collapsed. After 1800 (when he invaded Italy the second time) Napoleon occupied the Peninsula gradually, completing the occupation in 1809. During this period the French introduced numerous reform programs that transformed the Peninsula politically, economically, legally, socially, and militarily. Napoleon also transformed the Peninsula geo-politically, abolishing many of the Old Regime states and removing rulers and dynasties. Eventually, the Italian Peninsula was divided into three new areas: two satellite states, the northern Kingdom of Italy and the southern Kingdom of Naples and a third territory consisting of regions and former states that were annexed to the French Empire. My paper will discuss the numerous geo-political changes launched by Napoleon and their consequences.


Alex Grab is a professor of history at the University of Maine. He has published numerous articles on Napoleonic Italy. In 2003, his book, Napoleon and the Transformation of Europe, was published by Palgrave Macmillan.