- Napoleon and botany
- Public spaces and productive landscape
The main unplanted roads of the empire, and likely to be planted, will be done so with forest or fruit trees, depending on the locality, by the riparian owners.
Art. 1 of the law, 28 february 1805
Public green spaces
Landscaping had such an important place for Napoleon that it was given its own place in his legislative projects. One of the most significant is a law enacted on 28 February 1805, which ordered roads to be planted with trees, emphasising trees producing fruits or being used in the forestry industry.
At the end of the 18th century, tree-line roads started to appear in different places around Europe, shaping the landscape, especially along the coast. In 'Promenade dans Rome', Stendhal wrote that behind the tree-lined roads in Italy, such as the road along the Ligurian Riviera, with its bougainvillaeas and bignonias, one could clearly see the hand of some Napoleonic prefects, in this case Gilbert Chabrol de Volvic.
A network of nurseries was implemented on a departmental basis across the Empire. These worked in close connection with the institutions of natural science in Paris: the Jardin des Plantes, the botanical garden of the Palais du Luxembourg, and the garden of Versailles. The Paris institutions acted as a veritable bank of seeds, supplying the departmental nurseries with specimens needed for the improvement of local varieties.
Napoleon also placed a lot of importance on creating or redesigning parks. The Parco Reale, in Monza is exceptional by its span. Napoleon, Joséphine and her son from her first marriage, Eugène de Beauharnais, imagined and built this park, which, around 1808, became the largest enclosed park in Europe, almost 3 times bigger than Versailles. With a 14 km long enclosure wall, it featured agricultural fields, roads, farmsteads, villas, gardens, botanical greenhouses and orchards as well as a hunting reserve.
Other gardens, such as the Napoleonic Gardens in Venice (today known as Giardini della Biennale) were created under Napoleon, in an effort to give the city an area for public use and draining marshland for health reasons.
Reinforcing agricultural production
Since the second half of the 18th century, there was a rising interest in Europe for breeding exotic plants for economic purposes, such as strawberries or potatoes. Many plants were first acclimatised in the European colonies, in locations such as the Colonial Plant Garden of Saint Pierre in Martinique in 1803 or the Colonial Garden of Sans Souci, created in 1812 by the Governor of the Dutch East Indies (nowadays Indonesia). Most acclimatisation gardens in Europe were created from the second half of the 19th century until World War I.
Sugar beet is also an interesting example on how politics influence agriculture. The 1806 British embargo on products from the colonies, among other sugar cane, played a role in the development of the sugar beet production. This enterprise turned out to be difficult for Napoleon, even with the support of the chemist Jean-Antoine Chaptal, nowadays those researches left a real mark on the agricultural landscape and culinary traditions, France being one of the world's five largest sugar beet producers.
Agricultural landscapes through Napoleonic Cadastre
The Napoleonic cadastre - a property plan introduced by Napoleon in the 18th century - brought together in a homogeneous map some one hundred million parcels of land. It is a legal and fiscal tool still in use today, enabling citizens to be taxed fairly for land contributions.
It is also the best source for archeologists, architects, geographers or biologists to understand better how landscapes have evolved . The Napoleonic cadastre can, for example, confirm which territories have been intensively exploited by agriculture, livestock and forestry, which were built upon or how water has been managed and watercourses have developed.