The Third French Republic, 1870-1914

The Third French Republic, 1870-1914

The Third French Republic, 1870-1914

The Third French Republic, 1870-1914

Excerpt

Recent histories of the Third Republic have focused on the period between 1914 and 1940, because the events of that period appear to have great relevance to our own time.The period between 1870 and 1914 seems less dramatic, except for the Boulanger crisis and the Dreyfus affair, and it is usually treated by historians as an introduction to the critical inter-war period.Early histories of the Republic written before the fall of France in 1940 tend to emphasize the triumph of parliamentary democracy as well as the stable condition of French society and politics at the turn of the century.The conviction is strongly implied in many of these works that the Republic was synonymous with progress.A re-examination of the formative years of the Third Republic in the light of subsequent events—such as the collapse of the Third and Fourth Republics and the emergence of the formidable General De Gaulle as the dominant figure in French political life today—enables the historian to have a clear view of what France was like after almost a century of political upheaval as well as an understanding of how she was preparing herself for the dramatic challenges of the twentieth century.

An analysis of France between 1870 and 1914 reveals the conservative nature of French society and institutions.Traditional values were still very much in evidence at the end of the nineteenth century despite the great Revolution of 1789, the Revolutions of 1830 and 1848, and the abortive Revolution of 1871. These values reflected the needs and interests of a rural—agrarian society, but they were less viable in a society that was gradually becoming industrialized and urbanized.Until 1871, the Re-

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