History of French
Series of events in the modern countries started a long time ago. The French Revolution began a long time ago from 1789 to around 1790s, and during this revolution period, the citizens of French tried and redesigned their political landscape whereby they aimed at doing away with the old institutions such as the absolute monarchy and the feudal system of government (Wilson, 1994). Enlightenment ideals inclined this revolution and more so the concept of inalienable rights and sovereignty.
As much as the revolution failed, it played a critical role in shaping modern nations as it showed the world the kind of power that exists in the will of the people. The aims of this paper are giving some of the events that took place in French from the year 1814 to date. This took place during the period after Napoleon was exiled to the island of Elba. It also concentrates on the events that took place after Louis XVIII was placed on the throne (Wilson, 1994). It is going to explain the past activities concerning economic, social and political events that took place in the France for the last 200 years. These events are seemed to be responsible for the modern French. Napoleon escaped in March from Elba and rallied the French citizens behind him and reentered the capital city of France. These activities made Louis XVIII run away before he was later crushed by the British and Prussian forces in the middle of the same year. After the capture, Louis XVIII was unfortunately jailed thus serving the rest of his lifetime as a British prisoner of war especially on the island of St. Helena located in the south of Atlantic (Wilson, 1994).
Louis XVIII began his rule as a peaceful and a moderate monarch until the year 1824 when his brother Charles X, who was an ultra-royalist, finally succeeded him. Charles tried to restore the full power of the monarchy together with the supremacy of Catholic Church. In 1830, he was thrown out after a revolution that took three days. The revolution saw many divisions, opposition and had the upper bourgeoisie allied to itself with the revolutionary other forces. The result of the revolution had Louis Philippe of the House of Orleans to be put on the throne as the citizen-king. He would rule by the desires of the growing industrial plutocracy. Several other revolutions existed during this period as the government was also overthrown in the name of the second republic. Within four years of the second republic, its first president Louis Napoleon I organized a coup where he was proclaimed emperor under the title of Napoleon III.
The second empire from 1852-71 put more emphasis on colonial expansion and massive material acquisition. Different ideologies existed that motivated the aggressiveness on the foreign policy led to the Franco-Prussian war in 1870-71 where France was defeated, and it also marked the downfall of Napoleon III. France had its border of the provinces of Lorraine and Alsace stripped and the Holy Roman Empire was forced to have an agreement on an enormous indemnity. A provisional proclaimed a republic on 4th September of 1870 and took all the responsibilities of ensuring law and order were maintained to the time a new national assembly was elected in 1871. Due to anger arising from the rapid capitulation to Prussia by the conservative National Assembly finally captured the city.
The government troops savagely dispatched the commune during the ‘Bloody Week’ of 21- 28th May. The democratically organized government characterized the third republic, and its Constitution got its adoption in 1875. Despite the royalists sentiments being strong, its factions lacked was not agreed upon by the royal house concerning the candidate for the throne. The third republic then confirmed freedom of speech; they also allowed the press to air views as well as freedom of association was allowed (Annesley, 2005). The same third government enforced that there is a complete separation of the church from the state. Rights of trade unions were passed through the social legislation; mutual maturity suffrage also held elections.
However, the third republic had a very weak executive. Despite a long succession of cabinets being placed in power, there was normally short lived survival in power since often they were removed from power as the lower house had more powers in Nevertheless, the republic was strong enough to stop the attempts of the highly popular Gen. Georges Boulanger to overthrow the republic that is in the late 1880s. It also managed to withstand the bitter disputes between the right and the left-wing parties that were ever in triumph up the arrest and a long incarceration of Capt. Alfred Dreyfus, this was a scandal where Dreyfus as a Jewish was taken as a bigger issue to commit the treason allegedly. Eventual justification of Dreyfus went hand in hand with a decisive defeat of the monarchists and a progressive governing coalition emerged which had a socialist representation.
The world war I of 1914 to 1918 saw the unity of the forces of France, Russia, United Kingdom and later joined by the United States in 1917 to fight against Germany, Turkey, and Austria-Hungary. Most of the bitter fighting in the west was conducted on the French soil, with the consequences of the war having many French citizens serve as fatalities.
The most industrialized provinces of Alsace and Lorraine got restored to French under the Treaty of Versailles of 1919. Through this Germany was ordered to compensate for the massive reparations of the war. Even with all the compensations the French economy could not enjoy great prosperity in the 1930s. The state was faced with many challenges including several political crises and revolutions and the famous economic depression in the world of 1930’s that saw greet inflation, profound social unrest and widespread cases of unemployment (Cogan, 2003). The right and extreme left wing elements caused a lot of disturbances in February 1934. In 1936, the left wing parties held parliamentary elections, and they put up a Front government under a socialist, Leon Blum. He nationalized certain war industries, made the 40-hour week mandatory in the industry, and he also carried a lot of agricultural reforms in the country (Cook, 1945).
There were increased conservative opposition that overthrown the Front government from power. The leftists were to accept the conservative government of Edouard Daladier in 1938 following the increasing menace of Adolf Hitler. Since Daladier wanted to secure peace, he adopted the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement towards Hitler. But then Hitler was not appeased, and he ended up invading Poland in September 1939 and French joined the UK to declare war on Germany. In return, the German forces outdid the French line of fortifications and in flight the French armies between the Paris and Belgian frontier.
The Vichy came up with a new regime that ended the Third Republic. Vichy regime came up with a constitution having a slogan that emphasized labor, family, and fatherland. Even though the Vichy government tried as much as possible to accommodate itself with the German Victory, there was a lot of French resistance that gathered itself around Gen. Charles de Gaulle, who was an intelligent career officer. He escaped to London on June the 18th of 1940, De Gaulle came up with the provisional French National Committee and this committee later practiced all the powers of the wartime government in the French land that had constant resistant to the Germans (Cogan, 2003).
The committee participated in the war in Algiers Africa where they established the French provisional government. The continuous fights and resistance by the French forced Germans out of French and the provisional government of de Gaulle moved from Algiers to France after the liberation (Annesley, 2005). It then got recognition by the USSR, USA and the UK in October 1944.
In the postwar the vicissitudes were more political than economic; De Gaulle resigned as the head in early 1946 due to the issue of executive powers (Cogan, 2003). A fourth republic came with the weaknesses of the Third Republic. Most of the powers were under the National Assembly, the lower house of the parliament and also warring political parties existed. There was an attempt by the French officers to overthrow de Gaulle’s government that he suppressed by assuming emergency powers. Peace negotiations were concluded successfully with Algerian rebel leaders and later on Algeria gained its independence on the 1st July of 1962. Most of the France colonized territories in Africa got their independence and France continued to offer them economic assistance (Cogan, 2003).
In 1958, de Gaulle submitted a new constitution to the government that provided for a strong presidency and the constitution was greatly supported. The elections were held in 1958, and all the leaders who wanted de Gaulle out of office were not elected having de Gaulle being the 1st president of the Fifth Republic (Annesley, 2005). In the mid-1960s, de Gaulle wanted to distant France from Anglo-America alliance; the country made its atomic weapons and got its forces out of the alliance. De Gaulle also opposed the inclusion of UK in the EEC. Political firmness wrecked in the spring of 1968 following student riots and general strikes that ruthlessly weakened de Gaulle’s regime.
Gen. de Gaulle resigned in April 1969 due to a defeat by his government to restructure the Senate and the regional government. In June, Georges Pompidou, who had served as a former minister, was elected as the president of the fifth republic (Cogan, 2003). In the period between 1969 and 1973 the Gaullist hold on the French public continued to weaken, in the end they were forced to accept UK, Ireland, and Denmark to the EEC and they were forced to work under the constraints of the snake mechanism that linked the EC currencies (Cogan, 2003). An independent Republican, Valery Giscard d’Estaing won national runoff election after President Pompidou died in office in 1974. He became the third president of the Fifth Republic. He strengthened relations with the US but plied a middle course between the super powers in the world (Wilson, 1994).
Even though Giscard centered right coalition held firm in the March 1978 legislative elections, a socialist, Francois Mitterrand got elected as the president in May 1981, where the Socialists garnered a majority of the parliamentary seats in June (Wilson, 1994). Following his elections, he began national campaigns that aimed at nationalizing most banks and industries. However, it was hit by three major devaluations of France, high rate of unemployment and massive inflation that led to the announcement of an austerity program in 1983.
Mitterrand led the opposition against the attempt of the US to set up a natural gas pipeline that was supposed to cross between Western Europe and Russia. In 1984, Mitterrand named Laurent Fabius to replace Maury as the Prime Minister following his resignation. This act by the president stressed the economic austerity and transformation of the industry. The elections of March 1986 where the socialists lost the majority and Mitterrand was forced to appoint a conservative prime minister, Jacques Chirac, who was supposed to head a new- right cabinet. This kind of government was full of legislative conflicts whereby Chirac is having being backed by the national assembly could institute programs that Mitterrand was opposing (Cogan, 2003). For example, he managed to institute the program aimed at denationalizing the 65 state-owned companies.
In 1988, Chirac decided to challenge Mitterrand in the presidency that Mitterrand won in the runoff that gave him another seven-year term while Chirac resigned and Mitterrand forming a minority socialist government. The Economic and social problem in the government destroyed the relationships between the socialist Mitterrand, the center-right government and the conservative PM Eduard Balladur. Unemployment remained high, and a new legislation increased police powers aimed at combating illegal immigration. In May 1995, Jacque was elected the president after winning 53% 0f the popular votes and in 1999 he organized a guideline to have French joining European Monetary Union. This would create a single European currency (Annesley, 2005). Another presidential election was held in 2002 where Chirac was re-elected in a runoff. The certain thing is that nations go through a series of stages of revolution to reach where they are today.
Annesley, C. (2005). A political and economic dictionary: A case of Western Europe. London: Routledge.
Cogan, C. (2003). French Negotiating Behavior: Dealing with La Grande Nation. Washington, D.C.: United States Institute of Peace Press,
Wilson, E. (1994). Reviews: French Culture since 1945. Edited by Malcolm Cook. London: Longman, 1993. Pp. viii + 327. 12.99. Journal Of European Studies, 24(95), 309-310. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/004724419402409513