The French Third Republic (French: La Troisième République, sometimes written as La IIIe République) was the republican government of France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed due to the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, to 1940, when France was overrun by Nazi Germany during World War II, resulting in the German and Italian occupations of France and the Vichy France puppet government.
Maurice Larkin (2002) argued that political France of the Third Republic was sharply polarized. On the left marched democratic France, heir to the French Revolution and fully assured of the power of reason and knowledge to create a better future for all Frenchmen and all mankind. On the right stood conservative France, rooted in the peasantry, the Church and the army, and skeptical about "progress" unless guided by traditional elites. Adolphe Thiers called republicanism in the 1870s "the form of government that divides France least". The Third Republic endured seventy years, making it the longest lasting government in France since the collapse of the Ancien Régime in the French Revolution of 1789, and the longest ever since.
- Main article: Franco-Prussian War
The Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871 resulted in the defeat of France, and the overthrow of Emperor Napoleon III and his Second French Empire. After Napoleon's capture by the Prussians in the Battle of Sedan, Parisian Deputies established the Government of National Defence as a provisional government on 4 September 1870. This first Government of the Third Republic, headed by the President, General Louis Jules Trochu, ruled during the Siege of Paris (19 September 1870 - 28 January 1871). As Paris was cut off from the rest of unoccupied France, the Minister of the Interior, Léon Gambetta, governed the provinces from the city of Tours.
After the French surrender in January 1871, the Government of National Defence disbanded and national elections (excepting the territories occupied by Prussia) to create a new French government took place. The resulting conservative National Assembly elected Adolphe Thiers as head of a provisional government, nominally "chef du pouvoir exécutif de la République en attendant qu'il soit statué sur les institutions de la France" (head of the executive power of the Republic until the institutions of France are decided). Due to the political climate in Paris, the conservative government was based at Versailles.
The new government negotiated the peace settlements with the newly proclaimed German Empire, resulting in the Treaty of Frankfurt, signed on 10 May 1871. To oblige the Prussians to leave France, the government passed a variety of financial laws, such as the controversial Law of Maturities, to pay reparations. In Paris, resentment against the government arose and from April – May 1871 Paris workers and National Guards revolted and established the Paris Commune, which maintained a radical left-wing regime for two months until its bloody suppression by Thiers' government in May 1871. The following repression of the communards would have disastrous consequences for the labor movement.
Prospects of a parliamentary monarchy Edit
The French legislative election, held in the aftermath of the collapse of the regime of Napoleon III, resulted in a monarchist majority in the French National Assembly, favourable to peace with Prussia. The Legitimists supported the heirs to Charles X, recognising as king his grandson, Henri, Comte de Chambord, alias Henry V. The Orléanists supported the heirs to Louis Philippe I, recognising as king his grandson, Louis-Philippe, Comte de Paris. The Bonapartists were marginalized due to the defeat of Napoléon III. Legitimists and Orléanists came to a compromise, eventually, whereby the childless Comte de Chambord would be recognised as king, with the Comte de Paris recognised as his heir. Consequently, in 1871 the throne was offered to the Comte de Chambord. In 1830, Charles X had abdicated in favour of Chambord, then a child (his father having died already), and Louis-Philippe had been recognised as king instead.
In 1871, Chambord had no wish to be a constitutional monarch, but a semi-absolutist one like his grandfather Charles X, or like the contemporary rulers of Prussia/Germany. Moreover, he refused to reign over a state that used the Tricolore that was associated with the Revolution of 1789 and the July Monarchy of the man who seized the throne from him in 1830, the citizen-king, Louis Philippe I, King of the French. This became the ultimate reason the restoration never occurred. As much as France wanted a restored monarchy, the nation was unwilling to abandon the popular Tricolore. Instead a "temporary" republic was established, to await the death of the aging, childless Chambord, when the throne could be offered to his more liberal heir, the Comte de Paris. However, Chambord lived on until 1883, by which time enthusiasm for monarchy had faded.
The Ordre Moral Government Edit
In February 1875, a series of parliamentary Acts established the organic or constitutional laws of the new republic. At its apex was a President of the Republic. A two-chamber parliament (featuring a directly elected Chamber of Deputies and an indirectly elected Senate) was created, along with a ministry under the "President of the Council", who was nominally answerable to both the President of the Republic and parliament. Throughout the 1870s, the issue of monarchy versus republic dominated public debate.
On 16 May 1877, with public opinion swinging heavily in favour of a republic, the President of the Republic, Patrice de Mac-Mahon, himself a monarchist, made one last desperate attempt to salvage the monarchical cause by dismissing the republican prime minister Jules Simon and appointing the monarchist leader the Duc de Broglie to office. He then dissolved parliament and called a general election for that October. If his hope had been to halt the move towards republicanism, it backfired spectacularly, with the President being accused of having staged a constitutional coup d'état, known as le seize Mai after the date on which it happened.
Republicans returned triumphant during the October elections for the Chamber of Deputies. The prospect of a monarchical restoration died definitively after the republicans gained control of the Senate on 5 January 1879. Mac-Mahon himself resigned on 30 January 1879, leaving a seriously weakened presidency in the shape of Jules Grévy. Indeed it was not until Charles de Gaulle, 80 years later, that a President of France next unilaterally dissolved parliament.
The Opportunist Republicans Edit
Following the 16 May crisis in 1877, Legitimists were pushed out of power, and the Republic was finally governed by republicans, called Opportunist Republicans as they were in favor of moderate changes in order to firmly establish the new regime. The Jules Ferry laws on free, mandatory and secular (laїque) public education, voted in 1881 and 1882, were one of the first signs of this republican control of the Republic, as public education was no longer the exclusive control of the Catholic congregations.
In 1889, the Republic was rocked by the sudden but short-lived Boulanger crisis, while the Dreyfus Affair was another important event, spawning the rise of the modern intellectual (Émile Zola) and the separation of Church and State. Later, the Panama scandals also were quickly criticized by the press.
In 1893, following anarchist Auguste Vaillant's bombing at the National Assembly, killing nobody but injuring one, deputies voted the lois scélérates which limited the 1881 freedom of the press laws. The following year, president Sadi Carnot was stabbed to death by the Italian anarchist Sante Geronimo Caserio. Also in 1894, 30 alleged anarchists were judged during the Trial of the thirty.
Modernization of the peasantsEdit
In his seminal book Peasants Into Frenchmen (1976), historian Eugen Weber traced the modernization of French villages and argued that rural France went from backward and isolated to modern and possessing a sense of French nationhood during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He emphasized the roles of railroads, republican schools, and universal military conscription. He based his findings on school records, migration patterns, military service documents and economic trends. Weber argued that until 1900 or so a sense of French nationhood was weak in the provinces. Weber then looked at how the policies of the Third Republic created a sense of French nationality in rural areas. The book was widely praised, but was criticized by some who argued that a sense of Frenchness existed in the provinces before 1870.
The Third Republic, in line with the imperialistic ethos of the day sweeping Europe, developed a worldwide network of colonies. The largest and most important were in north Africa, and Vietnam. French administrators, soldiers, and missionaries were dedicated to bringing French civilization to the peoples of the colonies. Some French businessmen went overseas, but there were few permanent settlements. The Catholic Church became deeply involved. Its missionaries were unattached men committed to staying permanently, learning local languages and customs, and converting the natives to Christianity.
France successfully integrated the colonies into its economic system. By 1939 one third of its exports went to its colonies; Paris businessmen invested heavily in agriculture, mining, and shipping. In Indo-China new plantations were opened for rubber and rice. In Algeria land held by rich settlers rose from 1,600,000 hectares in 1890 to 2,700,000 hectares in 1940; combined with similar operations in Morocco and Tunisia, the result was North African agriculture became one of the most efficient in the world. Metropolitan France was a captive market, so large landowners could borrow large sums in Paris to modernize agricultural techniques with tractors and mechanized equipment. The result was a dramatic increase in the export of wheat, corn, peaches, and olive oil. Algeria became the fourth most important wine producer in the world.
Opposition to colonial rule led to rebellions in Morocco in 1925, in Syria in 1926, and in Indo-China in 1930, all of which were quickly repressed by the army.
The Radicals' republic Edit
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The Radical-Socialist Party, founded in 1901 (four years before the socialist French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO) which unified the various socialist currents), remained the most important party of the Third Republic starting at the end of the 19th century. The same year, followers of Léon Gambetta, such as Raymond Poincaré, who would become President of the Council in the 1920s, created the Democratic Republican Alliance (ARD), which became the main center-right party after World War I and the parliamentary disappearance of monarchists and Bonapartists.
Governments during the Third Republic collapsed with regularity, rarely lasting more than a couple of months, as radicals, socialists, liberals, conservatives, republicans and monarchists all fought for control. However others argue that the collapse of governments were a minor side effect of the Republic lacking strong political parties, resulting in coalitions of many parties that routinely lost and gained a few allies. Consequently the change of governments could be seen as little more than a series of ministerial reshuffles, with many individuals carrying forward from one government to the next, often in the same posts.
In 1905, the government introduced the law on the separation of Church and State, heavily supported by Emile Combes, who had been strictly enforcing the 1901 voluntary association law and the 1904 law on religious congregations' freedom of teaching (more than 2,500 private teaching establishments were by then closed by the State, causing bitter opposition from the Catholic and conservative population).
Political and military scandals of the 1890s Edit
There were two major scandals that rocked the Third Republic during the 1890s. One entailed the Panama scandals in 1892. Due to disease, inefficiency widespread corruption, the Panama Canal Company handling the massive project went bankrupt, with millions in losses.
The Dreyfus Affair was even more important, this time involving the French military. In 1894, a Jewish artillery officer, Alfred Dreyfus, was arrested on charges relating to conspiracy and espionage. Allegedly, Dreyfus had handed over important military documents discussing the designs of a new French artillery piece to a German military attaché named Maximilian von Schwartzkoppen. In 1898, writer Émile Zola published an article entitled J'Accuse...! (I accuse...!). The article alleged an anti-Semitic conspiracy in the highest ranks of the military to scapegoat Dreyfus, tacitly supported by the government and the Catholic Church. The real culprit was found two years later to be a high-ranking military officer and aristocrat, Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, but only in 1906 was Dreyfus given a formal pardon and freed after serving twelve years behind bars in Devil's Island, a Penal Colony in French Guiana.
French foreign policy and the outbreak of the First World War Edit
French foreign policy in the years leading up to the First world War was based largely on hostility to and fear of German power. France secured an alliance with the Russian Empire in 1894 after diplomatic talks between Germany and Russia had failed to produce any working agreement. The alliance with Russia was to serve as the cornerstone of French foreign policy until 1917. A further link with Russia was provided by vast French investments in and loans to that country before 1914. In 1904, French foreign minister Théophile Delcassé negotiated with Lord Lansdowne, the British Foreign Secretary, the Entente Cordiale, which ended a long period of Anglo-French tensions and hostility. The entente cordiale, which functioned as an informal Anglo-French alliance was further strengthened by the First and Second Moroccan crises of 1905 and 1911, and by secret military and naval staff talks. Delcassé's rapprochement with Britain was controversial in France as Anglophobia was prominent at the turn of the century, sentiments that had been much reinforced by the Fashoda Incident of 1898, where Britain and France had almost gone to war, and by the Boer War where French public opinion had very much on the side of Albion’s enemies. Ultimately, the fear of German power proved to be the link that bound Britain and France together.
France entered World War I to defend against German invasion. Germany declared war on France because it feared encirclement and sought to avoid fighting a long war on two fronts, given that France and Russia were bound by a defensive military alliance. Germany sought to win a quick war in the west before Russia fully mobilized its armed forces. The French victory at the Battle of the Marne in September 1914 ensured the failure of Germany's strategy to avoid a protracted war on two fronts.
Some French intellectuals welcomed the war to avenge the humiliation of defeat and loss of territory to Germany following the Franco-Prussian War of 1871 (revanchisme). Paul Déroulède's anti-semitic Ligue des Patriotes (Patriots League), created in 1882, advocated for example this revenge. This nationalism was also one of the cause of the low popularity of the "colonial lobby", gathering a few politicians, businessmen and geographers favorable to colonialism, until 1918. Thus, Georges Clemenceau (Radical), declared that colonialism diverted France from the "blue line of the Vosges", referring to the disputed Alsace-Lorraine region. Others opponents of the colonialist lobby included socialist leader Jean Jaurès or the nationalist writer Maurice Barrès, while supporters included Jules Ferry (moderate republican), Léon Gambetta (republican), and Eugène Étienne, the president of the parliamentary colonial group.
After SFIO and pacifist leader Jean Jaurès's assassination, a few days before the German invasion of Belgium which marked the beginning France's participation in World War I, the French socialist movement, as the whole of the Second International, abandoned its antimilitarist positions and joined the national war effort. Georges Clemenceau, nicknamed "the Tiger", would lead the government after 1917, obtaining the SFIO socialist party's support in the Union sacrée, or "Sacred Union". As in other countries, state of emergency was proclaimed and censorship imposed, leading to the creation in 1915 of the satirical newspaper Le Canard enchaîné to bypass the censorship. Furthermore, a war economy began to be implemented. This war economy would have important consequences after the war, as it would be a first breach against liberal theories of non-interventionism.
After the outbreak of the war in August 1914, France enjoyed relatively little success. In order to uplift the French national spirit, many intellectuals began to fashion numerous pieces of wartime propaganda. The Union sacrée sought to draw the French people closer to the actual front and thus garner social, political, and economic support for the French Armed Forces. Unfortunately, the Sacred Union had all but disappeared by 1917 as the French Army was dealt a series of catastrophic blows when its offensives were cut down by German machine gun barrages. These successive defeats gave rise after the Second Battle of the Aisne to mutinies along the Front. According to American historian Leonard V. Smith, as many as thirty-thousand French soldiers engaged in mutinous activities during 1917 alone. Still, the French government, led by Clemenceau, insisted on victory at all costs and therefore the French persisted in their efforts to defeat the Germans.
From 1919 to 1940, France was governed by two main groupings. The right-center Bloc national was led by Georges Clemenceau (1841–1929, Raymond Poincaré (1850–1934) and Aristide Briand (1862–1932). The Bloc was supported by business and finance, and was friendly toward the Army and the church. Its main goals were revenge against Germany, economic prosperity for French business, and stability in domestic affairs. The left—center Cartel des gauches,: dominated by Édouard Herriot of the Radical Socialist party, which was neither radical nor socialist but represented the interests of small business and the lower middle class. It was intensely anti-clerical, and resisted the Catholic Church. The Cartel was occasionally willing to form a coalition with the Socialist Party. Anti-democratic groups, such as the Communists on the left and royalists on the right played relatively minor roles.
The flow of reparation from Germany played a central role in French finances. The government had begun a large scale reconstruction program to repair the wartime damages, and had a large public debt. Taxation policies were inefficient, with widespread evasion, and when the financial crisis grew worse in 1926, Poincaré levied new taxes, reformed the system of tax collection, and drastically reduced government spending in order to balance the budget and stabilize the franc. Holders of the national debt lost 80% of the face value of their bonds, but runaway inflation did not happen. From 1926 to 1929, the French economy prospered and manufacturing flourished. The Great Depression hit France later than other countries, and in milder form. Nevertheless, in 1935, 750,000 workers were unemployed, and many others were working part time. Industrial production grew by 40% between 1913 and 1930, then in 1932 fell back to 1913 levels.
Foreign-policy was of central interest to France in the 1920s and 1930s. The horrible devastation of the war, including 1.5 million dead French soldiers, the devastation of much of the steel and coal regions, and the long-term costs for veterans, were always kept in view. France demanded that Germany repay all of these costs through annual reparation payments. France enthusiastically joined the League of Nations in 1919, but felt betrayed by President Woodrow Wilson, when his promises that the United States would join the League and sign a defense treaty with France were rejected by Congress. The main goal of French foreign policy was to preserve French power, and neutralize the threat posed by Germany. When Germany fell behind in reparations payments, France seized the industrialized Ruhr region. That proved a fiasco, and Paris did not again attempt unilateral action against Germany. Instead Paris created a paper wall of defensive treaties against Germany with Poland, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. In the end, these all proved worthless. It also constructed a powerful defensive wall—a network of fortresses—along the German border called the Maginot Line, which it trusted as a perfect defense. In 1940, however, the German army simply went around it.
The Left and the Popular FrontEdit
In 1920, the socialist movement split with the majority forming the French Communist party. The minority, led by Léon Blum, kept the name Socialist, and by 1932 greatly outnumbered the disorganized Communists. In 1936, the Socialists and the Radicals formed a coalition, with Communist support, called the Popular Front. Its victory in the elections of the spring of 1936 brought to power a left-wing government headed by Blum. In two years in office it focused on labor law changes sought by the trade unions, especially the mandatory 40-hour work week, down from 48 hours. All workers were given a two-week paid vacation. A collective bargaining law facilitated union growth; membership soared from 1,000,000 to 5,000,000 in one year, and workers' political strength was enhanced when the Communist and non-Communist unions joined together. The government nationalized the armaments industry, and tried to seize control of the Bank of France, in an effort to break the power of the richest 200 families. Farmers received higher prices, and the government purchased surplus wheat, but farmers had to pay higher taxes. Wave after wave of strikes hit French industry in 1936. Wage rates went up 48%, but the work week was cut back by 17%, and the cost of living rose 46%, so there was little real gain to the average worker. The higher prices for French products, resulted in a decline in sales overseas, which the government tried to neutralize by devaluing the franc and thus reducing the value of bonds and savings accounts. The overall result was significant damage to the French economy, and a lower rate of growth Most historians judge the Popular Front a failure, although some call it a partial success. There is general agreement that it failed to live up to the expectations of the left.
Conservative supporters of the old order were linked with the "haute bourgeoisie" (upper middle class), as well as nationalism, "gloire," military power, the maintenance of the empire, and national security. The favorite enemy was the Left, especially as represented by Socialists. The conservatives were divided on foreign affairs. A radical, fascist group had already left the conservatives, although there were few real differences between the two groups. Several important conservative politicians sustained the journal Gringoire, foremost among them André Tardieu. The Revue des deux Mondes, with its prestigious past and sharp articles, was a major conservative organ. The Catholic Church, played a very important role throughout the period, especially by forming youth movements. For example, the largest organization of young working women was the Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne/Féminine (JOC/F). It encouraged young working women to adopt Catholic approaches to morality and to prepare for future roles as mothers at the same time as it promoted notions of spiritual equality and encouraged young women to take active, independent, and public roles in the present.
On the far right were several shrill, but small groupings that preached doctrines similar to fascism. The most influential was Action Française, founded in 1905 by the vitriolic author Charles Maurras (1868–1952). It was intensely nationalistic, anti-Semitic and reactionary, calling for a return to the monarchy and domination of the state by the Catholic Church. However, the Vatican repudiated the Action Française in 1926, and it lost its popular influence, only to be revived during the Vichy in 1940–1944.
Downfall of the Third RepublicEdit
- Main article: Battle of France
The looming threat of Nazi Germany was confronted at the Munich Conference of 1938. France abandoned its military ally Czechoslovakia, and with Great Britain, appeased the Germans by giving in to their demands. Intensive rearmament programs began in 1936 and were redoubled in 1938, but they would only bear fruit in 1939 and 1940.
Historians have debated two themes regarding the unexpected, sudden collapse of France in 1940. The first emphasizes the long run, highlighting failures, internal dissension, and a sense of malaise. The second theme blames the poor military planning by the French High Command. According to the British historian Julian Jackson, the Dyle Plan conceived by French General Maurice Gamelin was destined for failure since it drastically miscalculated the ensuing attack by German Army Group B into central Belgium. The Dyle Plan embodied the primary war plan of the French Army to stave off German Army Groups A, B, and C with their much revered Panzer divisions in Belgium. However, given the over-stretched positions of the French 1st, 7th, and 9th armies in Belgium at the time of the invasion, the Germans simply outflanked the French by coming through the Ardennes. As a result of this poor military strategy, France was forced to come to terms with Nazi Germany in an armistice signed on 22 June 1940 in the same railway carriage where the Germans had signed the armistice ending the First World War on 11 November 1918.
The Third Republic officially ended on 10 July 1940 when the parliament gave full powers to Philippe Pétain, who proclaimed in the following days the État Français (the "French State"), which replaced the Republic.
Throughout its seventy-year history, the Third Republic stumbled from crisis to crisis, from dissolved parliaments to the appointment of a mentally ill president. It struggled through World War I against the German Empire and the inter-war years saw much political strife with a growing rift between the right and the left. When France was liberated in 1944, few called for a restoration of the Third Republic, and a Constituent Assembly was established in 1946 to draft a constitution for a successor, established as the Fourth Republic that December, a parliamentary system not unlike the Third Republic.
Synthesizing the meaning of the Third RepublicEdit
Adolphe Thiers, first president of the Third Republic, called republicanism in the 1870s "the form of government that divides France least." France might have agreed about being a republic, but it never fully agreed with the Third Republic. France's longest lasting régime since before the 1789 Revolution, the Third Republic was consigned to the history books as being unloved and unwanted in the end. And yet its longevity showed that it was capable of weathering many storms.
One of the most surprising aspects of the Third Republic was that it constituted the first stable republican government in French history, and the first to win the support of the majority of the population, yet it was intended as an interim, temporary government. Following Thiers's example, most of the Orleanist monarchists progressively rallied themselves to the Republican institutions, thus giving support of a large part of the elites to the Republican form of government. On the other hand, the Legitimists continued to be harshly anti-Republicans, while Charles Maurras founded the Action française in 1898, a monarchist far-right movement which would be very influential in the Quartier Latin in the 1930s. It would also be one of the model of the various far right leagues, which participated to the 6 February 1934 riots which succeeded in toppling the Second Cartel des gauches government.
A major historiographical debate about the latter years of the Third Republic concerns the concept of La décadence (the decadence). Proponents of the concept have argued that the French defeat of 1940 was caused by what they regard as the innate decadence and moral rot of France. The notion of la décadence as an explanation for the defeat began almost as soon as the armistice was signed in June 1940. Marshal Philippe Pétain stated in a radio broadcast that "The regime led the country to ruin" and in another that "Our defeat is punishment for our moral failures", and claimed that France had "rotted" under the Third Republic. In 1942, there occurred the Riom Trial when several of the former leaders of the Third Republic were brought to trial for declaring war on Germany in 1939 and not doing enough to prepare France for war. Marc Bloch in his book Strange Defeat (written in 1940, and published posthumously in 1946) argued that the French upper classes had ceased to believe in the greatness of France following the Popular Front victory of 1936, and so had allowed themselves to fall under the spell of fascism and defeatism. The French journalist André Géraud, who wrote under the pen name Pertinax in his 1943 book, The Gravediggers of France indicted the pre-war leadership for what he regarded as total incompetence.
After 1945, the concept of la décadence was widely embraced by different French political fractions as a way of discrediting their rivals. The French Communist Party blamed the defeat on the "corrupt" and "decadent" capitalist Third Republic, (conveniently omitting from this narrative their own sabotaging of the French war effort during the Nazi-Soviet Pact, and opposition to the "imperialist war" against Germany in 1939–40). From a different perspective, Gaullists damned the Third Republic as a "weak" regime, and argued that if France had a 5th Republic type regime headed by a strong-man president like Charles de Gaulle before 1940, the defeat could have been avoided. A group of French historians centered around Pierre Renouvin and his protégés Jean-Baptiste Duroselle and Maurice Baumont started a new type of international history that included taking into what Renouvin called forces profondes (profound forces) such as the influence of domestic politics on foreign policy. However, Renouvin and his followers still followed the concept of la décadence with Renouvin arguing that French society under the Third Republic was “sorely lacking in initiative and dynamism” and Baumont arguing that French politicians had allowed "personal interests" to override "any sense of the general interest". In 1979, Duroselle published a well-known book entitled La Décadence that offered a total condemnation of the entire Third Republic as weak, cowardly and degenerate. Even more so then in France, the concept of la décadence was accepted in the English-speaking world, where British historians such A. J. P. Taylor often described the Third Republic as a tottering regime on the verge of collapse. A notable example of the la décadence thesis was William L. Shirer's 1969 book The Collapse of the Third Republic, where the French defeat is explained as the result of the moral weakness and cowardice of the French leaders. Shirer portrayed Édouard Daladier as a well-meaning, but weak willed; Georges Bonnet as a corrupt opportunist even willing to do a deal with the Nazis; Marshal Maxime Weygand as a reactionary soldier more interested in destroying the Third Republic than in defending it; General Maurice Gamelin as incompetent and defeatist, Pierre Laval as a crooked crypto-fascist; Charles Maurras (whom Shirer represented as France’s most influential intellectual) as the preacher of “drivel”; Marshal Philippe Pétain as the senile puppet of Laval and the French royalists, and Paul Reynaud as a petty politician controlled by his mistress, Countess Hélène de Portes. Modern historians who subscribe to la décadence argument or take a very critical view of France's pre-1940 leadership without necessarily subscribing to la décadence thesis include Talbot Imlay, Anthony Adamthwaite, Serge Berstein, Michael Carely, Nicole Jordan, Igor Lukes, and Richard Crane.
The first historian to explicitly denounce la décadence concept was the Canadian historian Robert J. Young, who in his 1978 book In Command of France argued that French society was not decadent, that the defeat of 1940 was due to military factors, not moral failures, and that the Third Republic’s leaders had done their best under the difficult conditions of the 1930s. Young has been followed by other historians such as Robert Frankenstein, Jean-Pierre Azema, Jean-Louis Crémieux-Brilhac, Martin Alexander, Eugenia Kiesling, and Martin Thomas who have argued that French weakness on the international stage was due to structural factors as the impact of the Great Depression had on French rearmament and had nothing to do with French leaders being too “decadent” and cowardly to stand up to Nazi Germany.
Timeline to 1914 Edit
- September 1870: following the collapse of the Empire of Napoleon III in the Franco-Prussian War the Third Republic was created and the Government of National Defence ruled during the Siege of Paris (19 September 1870 – 28 January 1871).
- May 1871: The Treaty of Frankfurt (1871), the peace treaty at the end of the Franco-Prussian War.
- 1871: The Paris Commune. In a formal sense the Paris Commune of 1871 was simply the local authority which exercised power in Paris for two months in the spring of 1871. It was separate from that of the new government under Adolphe Thiers. The radical regime came to an end after a bloody suppression by Thiers's government in May 1871.
- 1872–73: After the immediate political problems had been faced, a permanent form of government needed to be established. Thiers wanted to base it on the constitutional monarchy of Britain however he realised France would have to remain republican. Due to expressing this belief, he violated the Pact of Bordeaux and thereby angered the Monarchists in the Assembly. As a result he was forced to resign in 1873.
- 1873: Marshal MacMahon, a conservative Roman Catholic, was made President of the Republic. The Duc de Broglie, an Orleanist, as the prime minister. Unintentionally, the Monarchists had replaced an absolute monarchy by a parliamentary one.
- Feb 1875: Series of parliamentary Acts established the organic or constitutional laws of the new republic. At its apex was a President of the Republic. A two-chamber parliament was created, along with a ministry under the "President of the Council", who was nominally answerable to both the President of the Republic and Parliament.
- May 1877: with public opinion swinging heavily in favour of a republic, the President of the Republic, Patrice MacMahon, himself a monarchist, made one last desperate attempt to salvage the monarchical cause by dismissing the republic-minded Prime Minister Jules Simon and reappointing the monarchist leader the Duc de Broglie to office. He then dissolved parliament and called a general election. If his hope had been to halt the move towards republicanism, it backfired spectacularly, with the President being accused of having staged a constitutional coup d'état, known as le seize Mai after the date on which it happened.
- 1879: Republicans returned triumphant, finally killing off the prospect of a restored French monarchy by gaining control of the Senate on 5 January 1879. MacMahon himself resigned on 30 January 1879, leaving a seriously weakened presidency in the shape of Jules Grévy.
- 1880: The Jesuits and several other religious orders were dissolved, and their members were forbidden to teach in state schools.
- 1881: Following the 16 May crisis in 1877, Legitimists were pushed out of power, and the Republic was finally governed by republicans, called Opportunist Republicans as they were in favor of moderate changes in order to firmly establish the new regime. The Jules Ferry laws on free, mandatory and secular public education, voted in 1881 and 1882, were one of the first sign of this republican control of the Republic, as public education was not anymore in the exclusive control of the Catholic congregations.
- 1882: Religious instruction was removed from all state schools. The measures were accompanied by the abolition of chaplains in the armed forces and the removal of nuns from hospitals. Due to the fact that France was mainly Roman Catholic, this was greatly opposed.
- 1889: The Republic was rocked by the sudden but short-timed Boulanger crisis spawning the rise of the modern intellectual Emile Zola. Later, the Panama scandals also were quickly criticized by the press.
- 1893: Following anarchist Auguste Vaillant's bombing at the National Assembly, killing nobody but injuring one, deputies voted the lois scélérates which limited the 1881 freedom of the press laws. The following year, President Sadi Carnot was stabbed to death by Italian anarchist Caserio.
- 1894: The Dreyfus Affair: a Jewish artillery officer, Alfred Dreyfus, was arrested on charges relating to conspiracy and espionage. Allegedly, Dreyfus had handed over important military documents discussing the designs of a new French artillery piece to a German military attaché named Max von Schwartzkoppen.
- 1894: A strategic military alliance with the Russian Empire.
- 1898: Writer Émile Zola published an article entitled J'Accuse...! The article alleged an anti-Semitic conspiracy in the highest ranks of the military to scapegoat Dreyfus, tacitly supported by the government and the Catholic Church. The Fashoda Incident nearly causes an Anglo-French war.
- 1901: The Radical-Socialist Party is founded and remained the most important party of the Third Republic starting at the end of the 19th century. The same year, followers of Léon Gambetta, such as Raymond Poincaré, who would become President of the Council in the 1920s, created the Democratic Republican Alliance (ARD), which became the main center-right party after World War I and the parliamentary disappearance of monarchists and Bonapartists.
- 1904: French foreign minister Théophile Delcassé negotiated with Lord Lansdowne, the British Foreign Secretary, the Entente Cordiale in 1904.
- 1905: The government introduced the law on the separation of Church and State, heavily supported by Emile Combes, who had been strictly enforcing the 1901 voluntary association law and the 1904 law on religious congregations' freedom of teaching (more than 2,500 private teaching establishments were by then closed by the state, causing bitter opposition from the Catholic and conservative population).
- 1906: It became apparent that the documents handed over to Schwartzkoppen by Dreyfus in 1894 were a forgery and thus Dreyfus was pardoned after serving 12 years behind bars.
- 1914: After SFIO (French Section of the Workers' International) leader Jean Jaurès's assassination a few days before the German invasion of Belgium, the French socialist movement, as the whole of the Second International, abandoned its antimilitarist positions and joined the national war effort. First World War begins
- ↑ Maurice Larkin, Religion, Politics and Preferment in France since 1890: La Belle Epoque and its Legacy(2002) p 3
- ↑ Joseph A. Amato, "Eugen Weber's France" Journal of Social History, Volume 25, 1992 pp 879–882.
- ↑ Ted W. Margadant, "French Rural Society in the Nineteenth Century: A Review Essay," Agricultural History, Summer 1979, Vol. 53 Issue 3, pp 644–651
- ↑ J. P. Daughton, An Empire Divided: Religion, Republicanism, and the Making of French Colonialism, 1880–1914 (2006) ISBN 978-0-195-37401-8)
- ↑ Martin Evans, "Projecting a Greater France," History Today Volume: 50. Issue: 2. (February 2000) pp 18+
- ↑ Robert Aldrich, Greater France: A History of French Overseas Expansion (Macmillan, 1996)
- ↑ Louis Begley, Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters (2009)
- ↑ Leonard V. Smith et al., France and the Great War 1914–1918 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 122.
- ↑ Maurice Larkin, France since the Popular Front: Government and People, 1936–1986 (1988) pp 10–13
- ↑ In total, France received ₤1600 million from Germany before reparations ended in 1932; but France had to pay its war debts to the United States, and its net was about ₤600 million, a small fraction of its overall cost of the war. Larkin, France since the Popular Front, page 9
- ↑ Philippe Bernard, Henri Dubief, The Decline of the Third Republic, 1914–1938 (1985) pp 78–127
- ↑ Julian Jackson, The politics of depression in France 1932–1936 (2002); Julian Jackson,The Popular Front in France: Defending Democracy, 1934–38 (1990)
- ↑ Larkin, France since the Popular Front, p. 55-60
- ↑ Irwin M. Wall, "Teaching the Popular Front," History Teacher, May 1987, Vol. 20 Issue 3, pp 361–378 in JSTOR
- ↑ See Daniel Brower, The New Jacobins: The French Communist Party and the Popular Front (1968); Nathanael Greene, The French Socialist Party in the Popular Front Era (1969); Peter Larmour, The French Radical Party in the 1930s (1964); Joel Colton, Léon Blum, Humanist in Politics (1968); Jean Lacouture, Léon Blum (1982); Helmut Gruber, Léon Blum, French Socialism, and the Popular Front: A Case of Internal Contradictions (1986).
- ↑ Susan B. Whitney, "Gender, Class, and Generation in Interwar French Catholicism: The Case of the Jeunesse Ouvrière Chrétienne Féminine," Journal of Family History, Oct 2001, Vol. 26 Issue 4, pp 480–507
- ↑ Martin Thomas, Britain, France and Appeasement: Anglo-French Relations in the Popular Front Era (Berg Publishers, 1996)
- ↑ Eugen Weber, The Hollow Years: France in the 1930s (W.W. Norton, 1994) pp 6–7
- ↑ Julian Jackson, The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of 1940 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 38.
- ↑ Julian Jackson, The Fall of France: The Nazi Invasion of 1940pp 40, 181.
- ↑ James McMillan, Modern France: 1880–2002 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 11.
- ↑ Marc Bloch, Strange Defeat; a Statement of Evidence Written in 1940 (London: Oxford University Press, 1949)
- ↑ Jackson, Peter "Post-War Politics and the Historiography of French Strategy and Diplomacy Before the Second World War" pages 870–905 from History Compass, Volume 4/5, 2006 pages 871–72
- ↑ 24.0 24.1 Jackson, Peter "Post-War Politics and the Historiography of French Strategy and Diplomacy Before the Second World War" pages 870–905 from History Compass, Volume 4/5, 2006 page 874
- ↑ Jackson, Peter "Post-War Politics and the Historiography of French Strategy and Diplomacy Before the Second World War" pages 870–905 from History Compass, Volume 4/5, 2006 page 873
- ↑ Jackson, Peter "Post-War Politics and the Historiography of French Strategy and Diplomacy Before the Second World War" pages 870–905 from History Compass, Volume 4/5, 2006 page 873
- ↑ Jackson, Peter "Post-War Politics and the Historiography of French Strategy and Diplomacy Before the Second World War" pages 870–905 from History Compass, Volume 4/5, 2006 page 875
- ↑ Jackson, Peter "Post-War Politics and the Historiography of French Strategy and Diplomacy Before the Second World War" pages 870–905 from History Compass, Volume 4/5, 2006 page 877
- ↑ Jackson, Peter "Post-War Politics and the Historiography of French Strategy and Diplomacy Before the Second World War" pages 870–905 from History Compass, Volume 4/5, 2006 page 878
- ↑ Jackson, Peter “Post-War Politics and the Historiography of French Strategy and Diplomacy Before the Second World War’ pages 870–905 from History Compass, Volume 4/5, 2006 page 884
- ↑ , Peter “Post-War Politics and the Historiography of French Strategy and Diplomacy Before the Second World War’ pages 870–905 from History Compass, Volume 4/5, 2006 page 876
- ↑ Jackson, Peter “Post-War Politics and the Historiography of French Strategy and Diplomacy Before the Second World War’ pages 870–905 from History Compass, Volume 4/5, 2006 page 876
- ↑ Jackson, Peter “Post-War Politics and the Historiography of French Strategy and Diplomacy Before the Second World War’ pages 870–905 from History Compass, Volume 4/5, 2006 pages 885–86
- ↑ Jackson, Peter “Post-War Politics and the Historiography of French Strategy and Diplomacy Before the Second World War’ pages 870–905 from History Compass, Volume 4/5, 2006 pages 874–80
- ↑ Jackson, Peter “Post-War Politics and the Historiography of French Strategy and Diplomacy Before the Second World War’ pages 870–905 from History Compass, Volume 4/5, 2006 pages 880–83
- Bernard, Philippe, and Henri Dubief. The Decline of the Third Republic, 1914 – 1938 (The Cambridge History of Modern France) (1988) excerpt and text search
- Hutton, Patrick H., ed. Historical Dictionary of the Third French Republic, 1870–1940 (Greenwood, 1986), 1206pp online edition
- Larkin, Maurice. France since the Popular Front: Government and People, 1936–1986 (Oxford UP, 1988)
- Lehning, James R.; To Be a Citizen: The Political Culture of the Early French Third Republic (2001) online edition
- Mayeur, Jean-Marie, and Madeleine Rebirioux. The Third Republic from its Origins to the Great War, 1871–1914 (The Cambridge History of Modern France) (1988) excerpt and text search
- Petringa, Maria. Brazza, A Life for Africa. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006. ISBN 978-1-4259-1198-0
- Price, Roger. A Social History of Nineteenth-Century France (1987) 403pp. 403 pgs. complete text online at Questia
- Robb, Graham. The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography, from the Revolution to the First World War (2007)
- Weber, Eugen. Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870–1914 (1976) excerpt and text search
World War I Edit
- Tucker, Spencer, ed. European Powers in the First World War: An Encyclopedia (1999)
- Winter, J. M. Capital Cities at War: Paris, London, Berlin, 1914–1919 (1999)
See also Edit
- French colonial empire
- French Presidential elections under the Third Republic
- 6 February 1934 crisis
- 16 May 1877 crisis
- Dreyfus Affair
- France in Modern Times I (1792-1920)
- France in Modern Times II (1920-today)
- The Collapse of the Third Republic: An Inquiry into the Fall of France by William L. Shirer in 1940 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1969)
- List of French possessions and colonies