French Political Thought in the 19th Century

French Political Thought in the 19th Century

French Political Thought in the 19th Century

French Political Thought in the 19th Century

Excerpt

By the nineteenth century we mean the hundred years which stretch from the Restoration of the Monarchy in 1814 to the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, or perhaps more exactly to 1905-1906. During those two years the struggle between Church and State reaches its inevitable conclusion in Disestablishment, and the religious question falls into the background of politics, making way for the problems first of social and industrial organization and then of diplomacy and war which were going to predominate in the succeeding period. The European situation also enters into a new phase, by the emergence of the Moroccan question and the formation of the Entente Cordiale, a revolution in the traditional policy of hostility to Great Britain. Finally, the same years mark the handing over of political leadership to the great ministers of the war period, the Rouvier cabinet (1905-1906) being the last to be formed by a politician of the old school; in 1906 Briand first takes office and Clémenceau becomes Premier, a new Clémenceau, conservative and constructive, superseding as it were the old Radical destroyer of cabinets: the twentieth century is here with its new problems.

In a study primarily of ideas rather than of events it is of course impossible to draw hard and fast lines of chronological division, and while endeavouring to throw into particular relief the dominating political conceptions of the nineteenth century we have not refrained from watching from afar, as it were, their evolution to the present day. We have not attempted, however, any study of such post-war political thought as constitutes a distinctly new departure instead of being but the continuation of pre-war systems--partly not to swell the dimensions of an already large book, partly also because of the difficulty of disentangling at such close quarters the ephemeral from the permanent, and partly because the chief new tendencies, Communism and Fascism, are not specifically French, either in origin or in character.

My warmest thanks are due to my friend and former colleague . . .

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