The Orléans monarchy collapsed and on February 25, 1848, a provisional government of the French Republic was formed which, among the first acts, re-established universal suffrage. In the immediately following period numerous groups and currents were created tending to give their own formulation to the new state that was to arise. Nobility and clergy did not hide their sympathies for the Bourbons, the capitalist bourgeoisie remained faithful to the July monarchy, workers and peasants were in favor of the Republic, the theorists of socialism made their voices heard with increasing force, trying to adapt the ideas of the French revolution to new needs (establishment of the Ateliers Nationaux). In this situation, a Bonapartist party was formed, which made converts in all social strata. After the elections of 23 April, which gave a moderate majority for the Constituent Assembly, and after the insurrections in June (23-26) following the closure of the Ateliers, it was easy for the Bonapartists to gather around their party a coalition of discontented people of all political tendency and to elect to the presidency (through universal suffrage) the nephew of Napoleon, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. The Legislative Assembly elected in 1849 was in a monarchical majority, moreover the fear of a revolution on the one hand, and on the other the lack of interest of the people, who did not identify with a Republic by which they had been disappointed, made the blow easy. of state of 2 December 1851. The following year the empire was re-established. Napoleon had been able to exploit the support of the conservative and rural classes (frightened by the strong radical minority present at the Assembly) and the disappointment of the people of Paris after the days of 1848, obtaining the support of the clergy with the expedition against the Roman Republic (1849). The Crimean War (1854-56), the campaign of Italy, which in exchange for help to Piedmont gave France Nice and Savoy, the colonial conquests (Cochinchina, 1862; Cambodia, 1863), the commercial treaty with Great Britain and the he incredible development of the French economy seemed to bring the country to the peak of its power and Napoleon’s prestige seemed definitively confirmed. However, there followed the years of the unfortunate adventure in Mexico, where Napoleon had supported Maximilian of Habsburg, and of the tension with Prussia, the powerful neighbor that had rapidly risen thanks to Bismarck’s ability to eliminate any Austrian influence (1866, Austro war -prussian). The Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), wanted by the chancellor but declared by France, offended by the attitude of William I that Bismarck had been able to present as particularly contemptuous (with the Ems telegram), finally precipitated the situation. After the defeat of Sedan (September 2, 1870), in the face of the general disaster, the republican forces reacted by setting up a national defense government. The war ended with the surrender of Paris (1871). The exasperation of the Parisian people, who saw the Republic, proclaimed once again, threatened by the monarchical majority of the new National Assembly, resulted on March 18, 1871 in the insurrection of the Commune. Thiers, appointed head of the executive power entrenched at Versailles, repressed it with merciless rigidity. Then, to the general amazement of Europe, he managed to raise France: the five billion war debt imposed by Germany was paid even before the due date, the territory was liberated and a national army was organized. In 1873, when Marshal Mac Mahon, a monarchist, succeeded the resigning Thiers, the monarchical restoration seemed inevitable, and in reality only the differences that arose between Orleanists and Bourbon legitimists changed the situation. The marshal had to resign from his duties as President of the Republic and was succeeded by Jules Grévy, a staunch Republican, who was re-elected in 1885 and resigned on December 2, 1887.


Under the Third Republic in 1882 a law was issued on the free and compulsory elementary school; in 1887 the laws on freedom of assembly and freedom of the press were passed; previously, in 1884, the formation of trade unions had been authorized. In the same period France embarked on the colonial adventure, in 1881 it secured Tunisia, in 1884 Annam, the following year Tonkin and Madagascar, while the penetration of Savorgnan de Brac. Characterized by an intense struggle of parties, the political life of the Third Republic saw coalition majorities in Parliament ready to dismember themselves, hence the frequency of ministerial crises. Sadi Carnot, elected as Grévy’s successor, he had to face the crisis provoked by the aims of General Boulanger, the scandal of the Panama Canal (1893), the labor conflicts (on 1 May 1891 the army fired at the demonstrators); his death (he was assassinated by an anarchist) contributed to fuel the fears of the more conservative sectors of the country which favored the affirmation of reactionary movements with a nationalist and anti-Semitic background; the Dreyfus Affaire fits into this context, which caused real rifts in French public opinion. Towards the end of the century, the majority passed to the left-wing parties who pursued an anticlerical policy of secularization of the state (school legislation, campaign against the congregations), which was to lead in 1905 into the law on the separation of church and state. Meanwhile, France had managed to break the isolation into which it had been forced after the Franco-Prussian War. The first step was the Franco-Russian alliance (1893), which was followed, after the settlement of the Fascioda incident, by a rapprochement with Great Britain until reaching the Entente Cordial in 1904. Later Italy’s approach to the Triple Entente (Anglo-Franco-Russian) outlined a reversal of positions which was evident in 1911, on the occasion of the Agadir incident, when Germany found itself isolated in the face of opposition from the European powers. On August 2, 1914, Germany declared war on France. The conflict gave rise to the Sacred Union and resulted in the formation of a government in which all parties were represented. The failure of the offensives and the heavy sacrifices imposed on the country led to a climate of mistrust which in 1917 led the socialists to leave the government; and while Briand, former Prime Minister, was in favor of a negotiated peace, Clémenceau, having risen to power, he ended up determining the decision to make the last effort that led to the armistice of 11 November 1918 and then to the Treaty of Versailles (28 June 1919). The first years of the postwar period were dominated by the German resistance to the execution of the Treaty of Versailles and by the French demand to demand reparations to the last (occupation of the Ruhr, 1923). This hard policy against Germany was matched internally by a victory of the right until 1924, when the elections gave the majority to the Left Cartel, whose leader, E. Herriot, overwhelmed by financial difficulties, had to retire in 1926 The National Union government, formed in 1926 by Poincaré, managed to straighten the economic situation, but the world economic crisis, which began in 1929, reached France in 1932. The scandals (for example that linked to Serge Alexandre Staviski), followed one another, putting the regime itself in crisis and leagues of extreme right which, fueling a climate of violence, ended up causing riots (February 6, 1934). With the advent of P. Laval to Foreign Affairs (October 1934), France, in which the conservative forces prevailed, approached Italy and Germany (plebiscite in Saarland, tacit French support for the Italian enterprise in Ethiopia, 1935). As a reaction against the threats of the fascist leagues, the Popular Front was born in 1936, which brought together Communists, Socialists and Radicals and which established itself with a clear majority in the legislative elections. The government, chaired by Léon Blum, head of the Socialists, had the forty-hour week voted, established the right to paid holidays, the mandatory nature of collective agreements and the nationalization of the railways. Harshly opposed by the right and the moderates, Blum withdrew in June 1937. The moderates, returning to power, proved powerless to curb the ambitions of Mussolini and Hitler.

France History - the Republic

France History: the Republic
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