France History: 1879-1918

Republic of the »opportunists« (1879–1898)

While the upper bourgeoisie expanded their key positions in the economy and banking and the nobility, especially in the western parts of the country and in the army, retained their leadership role, the renunciation of fundamental social reforms earned the moderate Republicans the accusation of opportunism, albeit their course of gradual domestic political compromise under the JFC Ferry in the 1880s for the liberalization of the press law, for a reform of the municipal regulations and the judiciary, for the approval of trade unions and v. a. led to the laicization of the modern education system. No less controversial was the foreign policy line of the “opportunist” republicans, which was also attacked by the monarchist and clerical right and radical left, who pursued a further expansion of the colonial empire in North Africa and Indochina, intended to support the industrial bourgeoisie. With the occupation of Tunisia, Tongkings and Annams as well as Madagascar in the 1880s it was possible to regain the great power and ability to form alliances lost in 1870, but this course led to a conflict with the interests of Great Britain, which in 1898/99 in the Faschoda crisis culminated. However, the economic crisis of the “Great Depression” in particular shook the position of the ruling republicans, strengthened monarchists and radicals in the 1885 elections and subsequently prevented clear majorities and stable governments. The anti-parliamentary-nationalist movement around the Minister of War, General G. Boulanger, left the left and right with lingering disappointment about the equalization policy towards Germany and the lack of social reforms, gained widespread popularity and brought the country to the brink of a coup. This danger was only averted in 1891 after the general’s death. In the period that followed, the dissatisfied gathered in petty-bourgeois, nationalist-authoritarian groups on the one hand and in the rapidly growing socialist movement under A. E. Millerand and J. Jaurès on the other. Check to see more about France and other countries in the world.

Domestic political polarization intensified in the 1890s with the Panama scandal, but even more with the Dreyfus affair. The fierce controversy surrounding the Jewish officer A. Dreyfus, who was unjustly convicted of espionage in 1894, also led to the founding of parties: the Parti Radical et Radical-Socialiste was established in 1901 and the Section Française de l’Internationale Ouvrière (SFIO; newly founded) in 1905, combining various socialist currents as Parti Socialiste 1969). At the same time, they created action committees with the right-wing Action française and the left-wing League for Human Rights, the structure of which went beyond the previous system of dignitaries.

Republic of the »Radicals« (1898–1914)

The rise of the socialist labor movement brought the middle-class radicals, who formed the victorious Bloc républicain with the Republicans in the 1898 elections, into the political center, with the cabinet under P. M. Waldeck-Rousseau 1899-1902 indicative of their egalitarian understanding of the republic, take a strictly anti-clerical line and, in conjunction with the socialists under Jaurès, who swung on a reformist course, force the Kulturkampf. This formed the basis of the Prime Minister’s Presidency of É from 1902 . Combes and was decided in 1905 with the legal separation of church and state. Although the socialists were also able to initiate the beginnings of social insurance and workers ‘protection, the military action of Prime Minister G. Clemenceau against unrest among southern French winegrowers in 1907 and the suppression of the syndicalist trade unions’ strike by his successor A. Briand in 1910 only separated them to a limited extent radical government to prepare social reforms.

In foreign policy, France, which had continued its colonial expansion in Sudan, Togo, Dahomey and Central Congo since the mid-1890s, broke its isolation after the non-renewal of the German-Russian reinsurance treaty in 1894 by the alliance with Russia, in 1902 in the event of one German attack on France achieved the neutrality of Italy and in 1904 concluded with Great Britain the “Entente cordiale” (Entente) based on a reconciliation of interests in North Africa and rear India. This pact became the British-Russian-French Triple Entente in 1907 in the course of the British-Russian understanding expanded. The now isolated Germany in 1905 triggered the 1st and in 1911 the 2nd Moroccan crisis. This was settled by the Morocco-Marengo Agreement, but the Franco-German trade rivalries and chauvinistic demarcation patterns persisted. The Balkan crises and the arms race increased mutual distrust, and fostered anti-German nationalism and conservative currents in the French bourgeoisie, the latter in response to the government’s radical anti-clericalism. In 1913, R. Poincaré, a representative of the idea of ​​revenge, was elected President of the Republic. Efforts towards an active peace policy, as suggested by J. Caillaux and Jaurès (Murdered in 1914 by a nationalist fanatic) were ineffective.

First World War (1914-1918)

With the outbreak of World War I and the German declaration of war on France on August 3, 1914, the differences between the government majority and the socialists were pushed into the background by the immediate formation of a Union sacrée for the common defense of the republic. Under the pressure of the military defeats, the parliament, which was temporarily forced to relocate to Bordeaux, now had to fight against the momentum of the army leadership, which was beyond control. The desire for a peace of understanding, war weariness (“defeatism”), increasing mutinies at the front led to a crisis of the French resistance in 1917, militarily through P. Pétain and F. Foch, politically through Prime Minister Clemenceau was overcome. The main provisions of the Versailles Treaty were the work of Clemenceau. With the reorganization of Alsace-Lorraine, the latter achieved the main goal of the policy of revenge, further demands, such as the permanent annexation of the Saar area, but failed due to the resistance of the other great powers. However, France was awarded the bulk of the German reparations, and it won important mandate areas in Africa and Syria; the French colonial empire reached its greatest extent (French colonies). Based on its alliances with Belgium, Poland, Yugoslavia, Romania and Czechoslovakia, France once again became the strongest continental European power and an important member of the League of Nations.

France History - 1879-1918