The French Revolution and Napoleon each in their turn had a tremendous impact on the development of the French educational system. This article will briefly review the development of French education prior to the Revolution, and then place the contributions of the Revolution and Napoleon in their proper context.
Much of the history of Europe can be seen in the rise and fall of its educational systems. With the collapse of the Roman Empire in the fifth century A.D., educational institutions, such as they were, declined rapidly. The Dark Ages which followed the fall of Rome may not really have been completely dark, but there is little question that the level of intellectual development on the part of the people suffered. Learning was largely confined to private study, often isolated from other people making the same effort. There was a movement in England to preserve, restore, and copy some of the old manuscripts, and institutional education did survive, but it was a far cry from earlier years.