Why Britain Paid Vast Sums to Other Countries to Make War on Napoleon and Why Trade Beat the Emperor

During the Napoleonic Wars Britain spent 14 percent of its total budget on paying France’s enemies to carry the fight to the Emperor. Gary Girod, host of the French History Podcast, explained why ultimately it was Britain’s financial and naval prowess which defeated Napoleon.

Between 1793 and 1815 Britain gave £65,830,228 to Russia, Austria, Prussia and other smaller nations in order to subsidise their conflicts with france.

That was on top of the millions it was spending on the Royal Navy, which ruled the waves and ensured Napoleon never tried to invade Britain.

Napoleon was driven into exile on the isle of Elba in 1814 but returned and was finally defeated at the Battle of Waterloo the following year. He died on the remote island of St Helena in 1821.

But why did Britain spend such exorbitant sums to keep Napoleon’s armies at war in Europe?

Gary Girod, host of the French History Podcast, said: “Britain was willing to pay so much because it could.”

Britain had grown rich from importing sugar, tobacco, coffee and other crops from the Caribbean – which relied on the slave trade – and tea and spices from India and invested these profits into the Industrial Revolution, which made them the world’s biggest manufacturer of iron, engines and woven cloth.  

​Mr Girod said England had modernised their government in the late 17th century when William of Orange brought over the Dutch banking system and this meant Britain was far more creditworthy than most European…

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