France in the Modern World

By Niles M. Hansen | Go to book overview

8
A Summary View

FROM the end of the middle ages until the present century a few European states dominated world history. Because of her central geographic and cultural position within Western Europe it was inevitable that France would play a leading role during this period. Despite a number of setbacks France was a great power from 1494 to 1940. No other European power could match France's long period of continuous military and political strength. Even more responsible than material resources in the extension of French influence were the richness and universality of her culture. Two world wars, the rise of a few superpowers, and the demands of the populations of former colonies for independence have all greatly reduced France's political power. Nevertheless, recent French history has been dominated by a man passionately determined to preserve her independence and prestige. Scorning all doctrines in favor of these principles, the Fifth Republic has steered a variable course between the "free world" perspective of Washington and the "international socialism" of the Communists, just as it has freely borrowed from both the Left and the Right within the French political tradition.

If France were again to play a leading role in the world, it would first be necessary that she be extricated from the colonial involvements that drained her energies and created dangerous political instability. The French chose de Gaulle in the hour of crisis not because they wished change but because, in keeping with long precedent, they wished to avoid change--whether imposed by the die-hards of the Right or a counter-movement on the Left. De Gaulle dealt brilliantly with the Algerian crisis and then estab-

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France in the Modern World
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Preface 3
  • Contents 5
  • 1 - The Geographic Background 7
  • 2 - Dominant Themes 22
  • 3 - French Society 41
  • 4 - Government and Politics 60
  • 5 - General De Gaulle and the Fifth Republic 84
  • 6 - The French Economy and Indicative Planning 101
  • 7 - France's European and World Roles 131
  • 8 - A Summary View 155
  • Study Guide 160
  • Suggested Readings 163
  • Index 165
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