Vive Napoléon?! From 1794 to 1814 Antwerp found itself under French rule. This brief period had a considerable impact on the city and on the lives of its inhabitants...
... Particularly once Napoleon began to involve himself in Antwerp’s affairs from 1803 onwards.
Affectionately referred to by his soldiers as ‘le petit caporal’ (the Little Corporal), Napoleon was a man of great aspirations. He gave a crucial role to Antwerp within his plans of European conquest. The city was to become his empire’s most important military port, and everything would change as a result. Following two lean centuries, the port regained its influence in world trade. It flourished and expanded.
The two large docks next to the MAS, the Bonaparte Dock and Willem Dock, are significant remnants of the period under Napoleon. They represent the beginnings of the today’s port. The bicentenary of the Willem Dock’s inauguration (in 1813) provides the celebratory occasion for reviewing two effervescent decades in the history of Antwerp. The city’s economy developed rapidly; but this came at a heavy price with Antwerp in a constant state of war.
What did the French achieve? What would their further plans have entailed? And how did those 20 years of French rule alter the dynamics and appearance of this port city? ‘Bonaparte at the Scheldt’ pieces this extraordinary legacy together using paintings, prints, maps, model ships and archive records.