France under the Republic: The Development of Modern France (1870-1939)

France under the Republic: The Development of Modern France (1870-1939)

France under the Republic: The Development of Modern France (1870-1939)

France under the Republic: The Development of Modern France (1870-1939)

Excerpt

The object of this book is to provide an account of modern French history from the fall of the Second Empire to the outbreak of the present war. It is designed for the general public. As the history of the Third Republic has only recently begun to be studied in a scholarly fashion, many important questions are still unsettled and it has been necessary to omit discussion of the evidence for the views taken here and to drop any apparatus of notes or bibliography. As the story approaches the present day, the traps in the way of the narrator increase in number and in complexity. The writing of very recent history must involve the use of materials which it is almost impossible to control. I have tried to reduce to a minimum the amount of guess- work at the cost of reducing to a mere narrative a very complex story. The last year has, indeed, been sketched only in the baldest outline. It should be said, however, that all of this book was planned and nearly all of it written before the outbreak of the present war. I have not attempted to alter the judgments passed on individuals and events in deference to any supposed need for reducing modern history in war-time to the level of a royal biography. It should be said, too, that the account of the origin of the last war, of the conduct of the last war, and of the nature of the peace settlement was largely written and entirely planned some years ago. The views here expressed on German diplomacy, military methods and geo-political position were formed long before the last reputable friends of the Third Reich were silenced by the event.

There is one feature of the plan of this book which, even apart from the faults in execution, may be adversely criticized. For here the 'development' of France is described only in its community aspects. There is what will seem to many an old-fashioned emphasis on political history. That the result is a distorted and unjust picture of modern France will be at once admitted. At no time since the reign of Louis XIV has the genius of individual Frenchmen and Frenchwomen been more brilliantly displayed, or in a greater variety of fields, than in this period. A history of modern France which finds space for the Duc de Broglie, historian and politician, but not for his grandson, the great physicist; for Calmette the journalist and not for his brother, the great pathologist; for Raymond Poincaré and not for his cousin, Henri Poincaré, the great mathematician: which has room for Zola . . .

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