It was a plan devised by Napoleon to exclude all British commerce from the continent of
Europe. He sought to affect this by issuing two decrees
known as the Berlin and Milan Decrees which
declared a blockade of all the British ports and forbade the nations of the
continent to trade with Britain.
It was one of the great blunders of Napoleon and eventually led to his
After the death of Pitt in 1806,
continued to fight the French for a further nine years. Between 1807 and 1810,
Napoleon made his first mistakes. Only Britain
were left outside the French empire and therefore were the only countries left
for him to defeat. Napoleon believed that he had to defeat Britain because she was keeping alive the
coalitions against France
through "Pitt's gold" - payments to European monarchs to continue
fielding armies against the French.
Napoleon failed to take advantage of
partial collapse and even allowed European grain to be sold in Britain in
return for gold, which he needed desperately. Trade restrictions were lifted
reaped the benefits because smuggling began again.
However bad the Continental System was for
it was disastrous for Napoleon because it backfired on him. French custom'
revenue fell and European nations were starved of British colonial goods:
coffee, sugar, tobacco, cocoa, and cotton textiles. Apart from cotton, the
imported goods were addictive luxuries and people resented the French depriving
them of these commodities. Replacement items such as sugar beet and linen were
not tolerated. The British blockade of European ports and the scarcity of goods
created a rise in European nationalism.