The Economics of Napoleon's Europe

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Faeelin, Jan 17, 2006.

  1. Faeelin Lord of Ten Thousand Years

    Jan 4, 2004
    Another thread, designed to generate discussion: Just what would the economy of a Europe dominated by Napoleon look like?

    Let's say that he merely replaces one Bourbon for another in Spain, preventing the Spanish ulcer. Lisbon essentially becomes a massive British fortress in Iberia, and Latin America doesn't openly trade with the British. (Although there are fairly huge effects on Latin American independence).

    How does a Europe under Napoleonic hegemony, from the Grand Duchy of Warsaw to the Kingdom of Italy, develop?

    Some thoughts:

    -Trade with Britain would be allowed, but the tariffs would be high, of course. What does Britain do if it doesn't have access to European markets in the early 19th century?

    -The years of the Napoleonic Empire saw the development of beet sugar, to replace expensive cane sugar. Does a Napoleonic Empire, aware of the British superiority at sea, attempt to find other alternative products, such as rayon in place of cotton?

    -Hmm, what will be done with the Napoleonic economic system within Europe, biased towards France? It doesn't seem to me that some sort of European Union is particularly probable; Napoleon tried to prevent the rest of Europe from industrializing, forbidding the production of cotton and wool cloth in Italy, for instance. And, of course, the various states within the Empire could put tariffs on each other's goods.

    Hmm. On the other hand... This system would probably be untenable in the short run, never mind the long run. (There was an uprising in Berg in 1813 as a result of the tariffs on goods produced in the Grand Duchy). And Napoleon was a big proponent of centralization; might he recognize that it's in his interests to foster industrialization across Europe?

    If not, then Westphalia and the Ruhr are going to face difficulties industrializing, while Belgium and the Rhineland, united to France and each other, should boom even faster than in OTL.

    Any thoughts?
    lucon50 likes this.
  2. Anaxagoras Vox clamantis in deserto

    Sep 25, 2005
    Between a rock and a weird place
    I think Napoleon would have worked to create a single European market and a single European currency- he talked about it a fair amount, anyway. But I still think it would have been more or less designed to bring the riches of Europe to France.
    lucon50 likes this.
  3. Faeelin Lord of Ten Thousand Years

    Jan 4, 2004
    Another thought: The British are stuck with the East Indies as well; in a quest for more markets, do they try opening the far east earlier?
  4. DoleScum Member

    Oct 28, 2004
    - Britain become more dependent on trade with the US, concessions are offered such as a toleration on neutral trade with Europe and free access for American vessels and goods to British ports.
    - Not sure about how you close off ALL of south America to British goods but it is probably not that significant a blow in terms of British exports the opening of south america to British trade in 1808 proved to be something of a 'bubble' with British exporters losing huge amounts due to their ignorance of south american markets e.g shipping tons of bed-warmers to a place with a tropical climate.
    -Britain needs to find an alternative market for its finished goods, probably attempts are made to dump more goods on India and to totally finish off the Indian cotton and metalwork industries.
    - More aggressive British imperialism in Asia to protect Indian market, Britain closes Indian freeports to all foreign vessels (possibly excluding Americans). Also greater attempts to penetrate China leading to earlier Anglo-Chinese conflicts.

    The flip side of this is that the European economy suffers from severe shortages of manufactured goods and agricultural equipment. European industrialisation is slowed down as the French place heavy restrictions on non-French industries and try to encourage their own export industries to switch from luxury to manufactured goods.

    In OTL the French did attempt to find alternatives to cotton. Even if a ready alternative could be found, I doubt it would prevent the almost termnal decline of the French textiles trade prior ro 1815.

    No you're probably correct. I suspect that France would have managed the European economy in a similarly exploitative fashion to the Germans in WW2.
  5. Faeelin Lord of Ten Thousand Years

    Jan 4, 2004
    Hmm. I'll have to see if I can find the numbers, but even after the bubble there was a substantial trade. Closing all of south America is probably impossible, though. Expect much more support for revolutionaries.

    And Japan. Bwahahaha.

    Mmm. I think that any peace treaty would require the resumption of trade with Britain, albeit with heavy tariffs. So I'm not sure severe shortages of manufactured goods is appropriate.

    Hmm. How plausible is this in the long run, however? I suspect that Napoleon, or his heir, will have to give up tariffs in favor of France if they want to hold onto their empire.

    The terminal decline?

    "Throughout the second phase of Napoleonic rule, the economy of the Nord continued to grow, despite short-lived economic slumps. Its varied textile industries survived the general crisis of 1810-1811 relatively lightly, and benefitted from imperial preference and protection from British competition... Even the fall of the Empire did not interrupt the growth of textiles, although the more traditional wool and linen industries gave way to cotton"

    "Lyon thrived as the manufacturing centre of silk... the number of silk workers rose from 6500 in 1801, and peaked at 13,146 in 1811.

    (Europe Under Napoleon).
  6. DoleScum Member

    Oct 28, 2004
    Well if you don't have a Franco-Spanish break in 1807 then the Spanish colonies would remain officially closed, although in OTL a lot of goods was being shipped to them through West Indian freeports and by good ol' fashioned smuggling.
    The Portugese colonies are something of a forgone conclusion given how dependent Portugal was on Britain. Even if the capital of the empire wasn't moved to Rio in 1808 the colonies would still have been opened to British traders.

    Unlikely, I can't imagine what intrinsic value anyone living in early C19th would see in Japan.

    Well it depends how heavy the tarriffs are...

    It depends, the French were traditionally weary of the strength of the British economy. Immediately prior to the Revolution the French had signed a free trade agreement with the British (1786) which had proved disasterous for the French economy, so much so that the French actually accused the Pitt ministry of 'tricking' them into signing.

    In OTL France has remained wedded to economic protectionism down to the present day.

    Ok, not 'terminal' in that France still had a textile industry after 1815 which experienced small growth rates (I would imagine primarily caused by the fact that metropolitan France once again access to imperial and overseas trade from which it had largely been excluded since 1793), however compare the French figures for textile production after 1815 with those of Britain and you'll see the extent of British primacy in this industry

    Silk had traditionally been one of France's most lucrative trades however to become a serious trade rival to Britain we need a way of France turning away from 'luxury' goods towards basic manufactured goods.
  7. Faeelin Lord of Ten Thousand Years

    Jan 4, 2004
    I agree about the continued trade with Latin America, and about Portugal.

    Copper and silver, for starters.


    1) The textile indsturies boomed in the empire, as we've already discussed.

    "The years 1800 to 1810 were effectively a kind of takeoff of the Industrial Revolution in France, fundamentally made possible by population growth and greater rural consumption, but also by a host of factors directly related to the imperial government: extensive governmental patronae and, above all, strff protectionist policies that completely insulted fledgling French industry against impsosible English competition.... by 1810, French industrial production was 50% over what it had been in the 1780s, and if it was still nothing like the level of British production, it was yet an accomplishment that should not go unnoted" (Napoleon: A Political Life, by Steven Englund).
  8. Max Sinister Retired Myriad Club Member

    Jan 15, 2004
    The Chaos TL
    Unlikely, I can't imagine what intrinsic value anyone living in early C19th would see in Japan.

    Copper and silver, for starters.

    Wouldn't they be more interested in luxuries like tea and silk?