What Was the Purpose of the Continental System?

The Continental System was developed by Napoleon Bonaparte and was a plan to halt and destroy the economic prosperity of the British. The system was shortlived and only existed from 1806 to 1807.

The Continental System called for British goods to be restricted from even entering Europe. Napoleon closed all of his empire's ports to British goods, and he was able to get the Russians, Prussians and Austrians to join him. Napoleon hoped that this would lead Britain into an economic depression, which would make it difficult for the British to maintain its strong navy. He also wanted to use the time to build up France's manufacturing industry.

The system began in 1806 with Napoleon's Berlin Decree and followed up with the Milan Decree in 1807. The British retaliated by using their powerful navy to create a blockade of all European ships. The British said that if Europe would not let them dock their ships at the European ports, then they would not let the Europeans use their ocean. This created a severe handicap in the internal European trading market, which at that time was primarily relying on sea shipping.

Many think of this act by Napoleon as an early EEC (European Economic Community) sanction. The nations of Europe were attempting to strengthen their own economies against major underselling by the British.