Baptism of Clovis

From 1100-1000 BC. BC, beginning of the successive infiltrations of the Celts, until the end of the 4th century, the history of the regions between the Rhine, the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees and the Atlantic, is developed in the article Gaul .

    Beginning of the 5th century : the Barbarians enter the Roman Empire in force. Vandals , Suèves , Alans cross Gaule to end in Spain (406); following them, Franks and Burgundians cross the Rhine. The Visigoths settle in Aquitaine (412-413), while the Bretons of Great Britain (driven out by the arrival of the Saxons and the incursions of the Celts from Ireland) take refuge in western Gaul (440) . A raid by the Huns of Attila is stopped by Aetius and the Germans (451).

476 : End of the Western Roman Empire . Christianity , the official religion since the end of the 4th century , slowly spread from the towns to the countryside.

Baptism of Clovis
Between 496 and 508 (?) : baptism of Clovis , king of the Francs Saliens, a people whose center of gravity is between Tournai and Cologne, and who extended his domination over northern Gaul.

507 : Victory of Clovis over the Visigoths at Vouillé , which made him master of the countries between the Loire and the Pyrenees, except for the Mediterranean coast.

534-536 : conquest of the Burgundian kingdom and Provence by his sons.

For more, see the articles Barbarians , Franks , Great Invasions , Visigoths .

    Merovingian kings from 673 to 742
    Dagobert I
    In 511, on the death of Clovis, the Frankish kingdom broke up, all his male heirs being entitled to a share. Gradually three kingdoms were formed: Austrasia , Neustria and Burgundy (or Burgundy ), which fought against each other and only found a semblance of unity under Clotaire I ( 558-561 ), Clotaire II (613-629 ) and Dagobert I ( 629-639 ).

Battle of Poitiers
The following period, from the middle of the seventh century to the middle of the eighth century , is that of the so- called lazy kings . Aquitaine and Armorica are lost . The aristocracy (especially the mayors of the palace ) gradually strengthened at the expense of royal power. In 687, Pepin of Herstal , mayor of the palace of Austrasia, became the actual ruler of the three kingdoms.

From 721 to 741, after a succession crisis, his son Charles Martel inherited his position; he crushes the Saracens at Poitiers (732). In 751, his son Pepin the Short got rid of the last Merovingian, Childeric III .

The king regards the kingdom as his patrimony and rules his subjects as a landlord his peasants. His servants constitute an embryo of administration ( marshal , seneschal , mayor of the palace ); locally, the count has the powers of the king (except justice, rendered by the rachimbourgs ), but the bishops are other agents of royal power, especially influential in the cities.

copyist monk
Rural life remains dominant, with the forest still covering vast areas. The large Roman-style estates are the main form of exploitation. However, a class of small landowners, holders of manses , may have developed under Germanic influence. Gradual cultural fusion between the Franks and the Gallo-Romans. Monasticism, reinvigorated at the end of the 6th century by the Irish ( colomban , founder of Luxeuil, around 590), then by the Benedictines, was a natural part of peasant life. The cities are maintained, but they lose their administrative and commercial role to keep only the dual military and religious character.

For more, see the articles Benedictine , Merovingians , Monasticism.

    The Carolingian Empire
    751-768 : Pepin the Short , founder of the Carolingian dynasty , crowned king of the Franks and consecrated by the bishops of Gaul (751), crushes the Lombards in Italy and gives the region of Ravenna to the pope who gives him a second coronation, as well than to his children, in 754. He conquered Septimania from the Arabs and annexed Aquitaine.

768-814 : Charlemagne , protector of the papacy, crowned emperor of the West by Pope Leo III, in Rome (800). Creation of an empire from the Ebro to the Elbe. Annexation of Lombardy (774) and Bavaria (788). Submission of the Saxons (772-804) and Avars in Pannonia (791-805). Failure in Spain: massacre of Count Roland ‘s rearguard at Roncesvalles and conquest limited to Catalonia.

The invasions in France, 9th-10th centuries
The invasions in France, 9th-10th centuries
814-840 : Louis I the Pious can not maintain the cohesion of his empire in the face of the revolt of his sons: Lothair I (emperor, 840-855), louis the Germanic (king of the Eastern Franks [817-843], then from Germania [843-876], Charles II the Bald (king of the Western Franks).After the alliance of Louis and Charles against Lothair by the oath of Strasbourg (842), partition of the Empire in by the Treaty of Verdun (843).

Charles II the Bald
843-877 : Charles II the Bald, first king of West Francia (Francia occidentalis). Decline of the Carolingian Empire; new waves of invasions: Saracen raids in Provence, raids by the Normans . Birth of territorial principalities, now in the hands of large families.

877-884 : reigns of Louis II the Stammerer (877-879), of Louis III and Carloman (879-882), then of Carloman alone (882-884). Resurgence of Norman raids.

884-887 : regency of the kingdom to Charles the Fat , king of Germania and emperor, unable to ward off the Norman peril.

Louis V
888 : coronation of Count Eudes , defender of Paris, king from 888 to 898. After him, the crown of France alternated, or was disputed, between his parents (Robertians) Robert I ( 922-923 ) and Raoul of Burgundy (923 -936), and the Carolingians: Charles III the Simple (893-923), Louis IV d’Outremer (936-954), Lothaire (954-986) and Louis V (986-987).

911 : installation of the Normans in Normandy (treaty of Saint-Clair-sur-Epte).

987 : death of the last Carolingian sovereign and election of Hugues Capet , Duke of the Franks, last of the Robertians. Beginning of the Capetian dynasty.

France at the top of the tenth century
The king tried to govern directly by sending investigators (missi dominici) to the provinces and by regular meetings of the large landowners, who ratified imperial decisions and dispensed justice. Vassalage and profit are introduced into the organization of the state: these are the beginnings of feudalism .

Carolingian miniature
The Church is an instrument of government and the guide of civilization; bishops and especially monks (generalization of the Benedictine rule under Louis the Pious) are the essential elements of the Carolingian renaissance (letters and arts). The books are adorned with miniatures and richly bound. A new writing, more readable, is developed in the monasteries: the tiny caroline , from which our writing comes. Charlemagne orders the bishops and monasteries to reactivate the network of schools from Late Antiquity and animates in his own palace a circle of scholars, the Palatine Academy. This intellectual and artistic renaissance continued under his successors, despite political vicissitudes, and persisted in the tenth and11th centuries in certain isolated hearths, under the impulse of the bishops of Reims, then of Chartres, and of the abbeys of Normandy.

The material basis of Carolingian power lies in the large royal domains, which, by their mode of exploitation, their structure and their economic role, form the type of areas of large property, characteristic of the Carolingian period; many slaves are employed there and the free peasants are attached to their manse: it is the emergence of serfdom , at the intersection of the two statutes. To these royal domains must be added the great ecclesiastical domains.

For more, see the article Carolingians .

    With the Capetians, there is never a minority : at each advent, the king is an adult. Hugues Capet, during his lifetime, took care to have his son crowned. The coronation makes the king a different character from other feudal lords, even if many of them are more powerful than him.

Hugues Capet
Henry I
987-1108 : Hugh Capet (987-996), Robert II the Pious (996-1031), Henry I ( 1031-1060 ) and Philip I ( 1060-1108 ), the first Capetians, are powerless against the great principalities that surround them. Within their own domain, they face powerful lords. In foreign policy, the first Capétiens play no role: they do not take part in the first crusade, and the weak Philippe I er cannot prevent his powerful vassal, the duke of Normandy, Guillaume I er the Conqueror, to become king of England in 1066. But no prince disputes the royalty to them. The era was marked by a new rise in civilization, due to the end of invasions and the upsurge in trade. The religious renewal came not from the bishops – too closely linked to the patronal system of feudalism –, but from the monks (→ Cluny ); pilgrimages, crusades , truces of God , chivalry are manifestations of this.

Louis VI the Fat
Louis VII
1108-1180 : decisive reigns of Louis VI the Fat (1108-1137) and his son Louis VII the Younger (1137-1180), whose abbot of Saint-Denis (→ Suger , around 1081-1151), is the advise. These sovereigns pursue the resumption in hand of their own domain by the weapons, the repurchases and the matrimonial alliances. More and more frequently, the king is called upon to intervene as arbiter and judge (communal charters); Paris definitely becomes the capital of the kingdom (→ history of Paris ).

By a subtle game, the Capetians strive to enlarge their domain at the expense of the great barons , over whose domains the king exercises rights of suzerainty. The only real danger for royalty came from the Duke of Normandy, who in 1066 became King of England and soon became master, in France itself, under the Plantagenets, of the vast “Angevin Empire”, definitively constituted in 1154 under Henry II.

France in the time of Philippe Auguste
A net increase in population (despite epidemics and famines) then coincides with a considerable upheaval in traditional agricultural life. Small tenures are multiplying for the benefit of family and village cells; the lords attract “guests”, who will enjoy a non-servile condition, land, and a house for which they pay a modest fee . The life of relationship is reborn: men, goods and ideas (→ Cathars , Vaudois ) circulate intensely on land and river routes in full renovation; a class of financiers, of traders is created; fairs _become the regular appointments of merchandise professionals. We are witnessing the birth of new agglomerations (towns, suburbs). In this urban environment an increasingly powerful bourgeoisie developed, with a sense of solidarity and eager for militant autonomy and emancipation (communes).

Progress is also evident in the transmission of knowledge ( Abelard , Anselme ) and in the training of masters around cathedrals and in monasteries: this is the “Renaissance of the twelfth century ”. Antiquity reappeared in the art of reasoning and also in architecture and decoration, which flourished with Romanesque art , then, from 1140, with Gothic art.

1180-1223 : reign of the son of Louis VII, Philippe II Auguste , who affirmed the power of the Capetian monarchy and gave it its national character. In his fight against the power of the Plantagenets , he gave proof of an inflexible will. His annexationist policy arouses against France the coalition of England, Flanders and the Empire, which Philippe Auguste and his son break at the battles of La Roche-aux-Moines and Bouvines (1214), provoking the first outburst of a real national feeling. The appellation of King of France (rex Franciae) begins to supplant that of King of the Franks (rex Francorum) : the country takes on consistency, at least politically. Improvement of local administration ( bailiffs and seneschals ).

1223-1226 : reign of Louis VIII , who submits Languedoc (his successor will inherit part of the county of Toulouse [treaty of Paris in 1229], the remainder due in 1249 to his brother then, from there, to the royal domain in 1271).

Coronation of Saint Louis

1226-1270 : reign of Louis IX, or Saint Louis . Blanche de Castille first assures the regency and suppresses the troubles caused by the feudal lords. Louis IX appears as the guarantor of justice, peace and Christian order; he will be the last knight king (7th and 8th crusade) .

Philip III the Bold

1270-1285 : reign of Philippe III le Bold , which is illustrated above all by the subordination of royal policy to the Mediterranean ambitions of his uncle Charles of Anjou (→ houses of Anjou ). Progress of the royal administration with the emergence, within the King’s Council (→ Curia regis ) of a Parliament and a Chamber of Accounts.

Philip IV the Fair

1285-1314 : reign of Philippe IV le Bel . The Franco-English conflict reignites; if he acquired Barrois and Lyonnais (1301), the king could not get his hands on Flanders (→ failure of Courtrai , 1302). A resolutely national monarchy is strengthened, which is based on Roman law, plays on the erasure of the Empire and contributes to that of the Holy See (conflict with Boniface VIII ). From 1302 onwards, the king convened state assemblies intermittently, the beginnings of future states general.
Louis X le Hutin
Philip V the LongCharles IV le Bel and Anselin
1314-1328 : after the short reign of Louis X le Hutin (1314-1316), the crown passed to a posthumous son of the latter, Jean I , who only reigned for a few days (1316). It was then that it was decided to remove the women from the throne of France to allow the transmission of the crown to a brother of Louis X, Philippe V the Long (1316-1322), then to another brother, Charles IV the Bell (1322-1328); these kings leaving only daughters, the throne returned to a Valois, Philippe VI.

For more, see the articles Capetians , Chivalry , Crusades.

  1. THE FIRST VALOIS (1328-1440)
    The Hundred Years War, 1338-1350
    The Hundred Years War, 1356-1380Philip VI of Valois
    King Edward III of England is by his mother, Isabella of France, the grandson of Philip the Fair, while the new king of France, Philip VI (1328-1350), is only his nephew, online masculine. As the barons feared seeing a foreign prince reign over France, it was decided to complete the system of 1316 by denying women the very right to transmit the crown (this is what will be called from 1374 the Salic law , based on a forced interpretation of Frankish legislation). Edward III bows. But, since the treaty of Paris of 1259, the king of England owes the homageto the King of France for his continental possessions, such as Aquitaine, and he therefore falls under French jurisdiction, which is a source of endless disputes. The war began in 1337 with the refusal of homage by Edward III, who sought to assert his rights to the crown of France to better free himself from the feudal bond.

John II the Good

Battle of the Lock
France suffered serious defeats (→ L’Écluse , 1340; Crécy , 1346; Calais , 1347). But, in 1349, Philippe VI inherited Dauphiné, as well as Montpellier. The Black Death , which ravaged France and Western Europe (1348-1349), suspended hostilities. These resumed under John II the Good (1350-1364), when Edward III’s son, the Black Prince , devastated Aquitaine. It was while wanting to counter him that Jean le Bon was beaten in 1356 in the field of Maupertuis at the so-called battle of Poitiers , and was taken prisoner.

The king’s captivity caused unrest in Paris, where discontent broke out in the states convened in 1356 by the Dauphin Charles, who in his father’s absence became lieutenant general of the kingdom . Frightened, the bourgeois gathered behind the Dauphin in 1358 and turned away from the leader of the protest, Étienne Marcel , provost of the merchants of Paris, who was assassinated.
Charles V
At the Treaty of Brétigny (1360), Edward III renounced the throne of France, but he retained Aquitaine, Poitou, Aunis , Saintonge and Calais. Jean le Bon is released against a large ransom; Unable to pay it, he returned to England, where he died almost immediately (1364). Having become king, his son Charles V (1364-1380), by exploiting the ambiguities of the Treaty of Brétigny, went, helped by the constable Du Guesclin , to recover most of the English possessions. Charles V knows how to surround himself with excellent advisers and strengthens the royal power (taxation). The very year of his accession, Du Guesclin won over the King of Navarre Charles the Bad , the King’s cousin, the Battle ofCocherel , then he rids France of the Great Companies . Through a series of well-conducted operations, he seized almost all of the South-West as well as Brittany. At the end of Charles V’s reign, the English only possessed Calais, Bordeaux and Bayonne in France.


France, 1415-1436
Charles VIJohn the Fearless
Everything is compromised under the reign of Charles VI (1380-1422): the madness of the king, which occurred in 1392, delivers the kingdom to his uncles, to his brother Louis of Orléans and to Queen Isabeau of Bavaria . The emulation between these princes stimulated the blossoming of a first French humanism influenced by Hellenism and the Italian Trecento (→ Christine de Pisan , Jean de Gerson ) which would not survive the civil war. The Duke of Burgundy, Jean sans Peur , had Louis d’Orléans assassinated in 1407: this murder was at the origin of the conflict between Armagnacs and Burgundians .

Battle of Agincourt
Battle of AgincourtIsabella of BavariaSurrender of Troyes
The latter allied with King Henry V of England , who defeated the Armagnacs and the royal troops at Agincourt (1415). However, worried about English progress, Jean sans Peur tries to get closer to the Dauphin. At the interview on the Pont de Montereau , he was assassinated in a brawl with the people of the Dauphin (1419). His death brought his heir, Philip the Good , into the English camp. In the Treaty of Troyes in 1420, Philippe le Bon, Henri V and Isabeau of Bavaria agree to dispossess the Dauphin of his rights.

Joan of Arc in peasant costume
Joan of Arc in peasant costumeIngres, Joan of Arc during the coronation of Charles VII in the cathedral of Reims
The King of England marries Charles VI’s daughter, Catherine, and becomes heir to the throne of France. But Henry V died two months before Charles VI (1422). His son Henry VI is theoretically king of France and England. The disinherited Dauphin, recognized as king by the Armagnacs under the name of Charles VII (1422-1461) only controls the lands south of the Loire upon his accession. Joan of Arc gives him confidence and forces the English to lift the siege of Orleans. She then beat Talbot at Patay and went to Reims to crown Charles VII (July 1429). Neither her failure before Paris, nor her captivity, nor her execution by the English in Rouen (1431) stopped the impulse she gave.

Charles VII
However, the decisive turning point for Charles VII did not come until the Peace of Arras (1435), when he was reconciled with the Duke of Burgundy, then worked to restore order in the kingdom. In 1438, by the pragmatic sanction of Bourges , he reorganized the Church of France and asserted its independence from papal power. He then put an end to an attempt at revolt by the last great feudal lords, Praguerie (1440).

For more, see the article Hundred Years’ War.

  1. FRENCH RECOVERY (1440-1483)

Jacques Heart
1440-1461 : well advised by his treasurer Jacques Cœur , Charles VII reconstitutes his finances and endows the kingdom with a solid army and excellent artillery, which enable him to definitively drive the English out of France (1450-1453). They now only own Calais.

Louis XI
Louis XIThe acquisitions of Louis XI
1461-1483 : reign of Louis XI , who in turn fights victoriously against the great lords, united in the League of Public Good (1465), and who works to enlarge the kingdom. In 1481, he collected the heritage of the house of Anjou, that is to say Provence, Maine and Anjou. He took Roussillon from Aragon. Its heaviest task consists in breaking the house of Burgundy in the person of its Duke Charles the Bold ; he succeeded in this partially, acquiring Burgundy (1482), but could not prevent the marriage of Marie de Bourgogne , daughter of Charles, with Maximilian of Habsburg, Archduke of Austria and future emperor.


Charles VIII
1483-1498 : reign of Charles VIII , who, by marrying (1491) the heiress of Brittany, Anne , prepares the annexation of this duchy to France. Heir to the house of Anjou in Naples, the king led an adventurous expedition to Italy (1494-1495); he must yield to the coalition of the Pope, Venice, Ferdinand of Aragon and the Emperor Maximilian. Meeting of the first Estates General truly representative of all the provinces (1484).

Louis XII
1498-1515 : reign of Louis XII , first Duke of Orléans, and continuation of this policy, which became burdened with the claims of the House of Orléans on the Milanese. After some success at Agnadel (1509) and above all at Ravenna (1512), Louis XII lost Italy.

Battle of Marignan
1515-1547 : reign of François I , valois of the Angoulême branch. He married in 1514 Claude de France , daughter of Louis XII and Anne; thus, the duchy of Brittany will definitively return to the royal domain (1532). The king reconquers the Milanese after the victory of Marignan (1515). Perpetual peace is signed with the Swiss cantons (1516): it gives the King of France the right to regularly raise Swiss mercenaries. Bologna Concordat(1516) with the pope, who accepts the king’s control over the clergy of France, subject to a right of inspection (in force until 1790). But the threat now comes from the house of Austria: Charles de Habsbourg, heir to the Burgundian possessions (Netherlands, Franche-Comté), king of Spain, was elected emperor of the Holy Empire, in 1519, under the name of Charles Quint . Hemmed in on all sides by the possessions of the Habsburgs, who also wanted to regain the Burgundy of the Bold, François I began a long-term struggle. If he was beaten and taken prisoner at Pavia in 1525, he could, at the Peace of the Ladies in 1529, retain Burgundy. Ally of the Ottomans, François imade triumph a policy of balance, but it failed in its attempt at alliance with the English (1520), which it will also have to fight.

Henry II
Henry IITreaty of Cateau-Cambresis
1547-1559 : reign of Henry II , who continued the struggle, marked by alternating setbacks and successes. At the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis (1559), France lost its conquests in Italy, but kept Calais (taken back from the English in 1558) and the Trois-Évêchés (Metz, Toul and Verdun). Beginning of the Wars of Religion.

Francis I

Under Francis I , royal authority took root. The nobles gradually came under royal dependence within a sumptuous but nomadic court (Châteaux de la Loire). The clergy submitted to royal domination (concordat of Bologna, 1516); secretaries of state were put in place (four in 1547); the provincial administration develops (institution of the generalities and creation of the commissioners departed under Henri II).

At first listening to Italy and Antiquity (→ first school of Fontainebleau ), the French cultural and artistic Renaissance sought the affirmation of a national style (→ Joachim du Bellay , Défense et illustration de la French language , 1549; → Rabelais , architects Philibert Delorme and Pierre Lescot , sculptor Jean Goujon ) who evolved from classicism to mannerism (second school of Fontainebleau). In 1539, the ordinance of Villers-Cotterêtsimposes the use of French instead of Latin in official documents. The influx of American precious metals sparked an intense commercial movement, which enriched the country but drove up prices. The general economic acceleration is linked to the intensification of large-scale maritime trade (creation of Le Havre in 1517) and the development of luxury industries, a consequence of the development of public credit and the ability to save.

For more, see the articles Classicism in the Arts , Classicism in Literature , Renaissance .


The Wars of Religion, 1562-1577
The Wars of Religion, 1578-1598
France is tormented by the spirit of religious reform, evangelism. Humanists and reformers come together in a common desire to return to the Bible. At first, the power showed itself tolerant, even benevolent, towards the evangelical movement of Lefèvre d’Étaples and Guillaume Briçonnet , and let the Lutheran doctrines penetrate France. After the Case of the Placards (1534), François I er rages, but the Reformation will continue its progress, especially thanks to Calvin .

Catherine de Medici
Catherine de MediciHenry I of Lorraine, 3rd Duke of Guise, known as Le Balafré
1559-1589 : under the three sons of Henri II, François II (1559-1560), Charles IX (1560-1574) – who lived in the shadow of the queen mother Catherine de Médicis –, then Henri III (1574- 1589), France was devastated by the terrible Wars of Religion, which, through episodes favorable sometimes to one and sometimes to the other party, culminated with the massacre of Saint-Barthélemy (1572).

Henry II
Henry IIThe assassination of the Duke of Guise at the Château de Blois (December 23, 1588)
The reign of the last Valois, Henri III , is particularly dramatic, because to the king and to the Protestant Henri de Navarre, his heir from 1584 opposes the Catholic League , which appeals to the Spaniards and makes itself the instrument of the ambition of the Guises. In 1588, Henri de Guise forced Henri III to flee from Paris and take refuge in Blois, where the king convened the States General. In Blois, Henri III had the Duke of Guise and his brother Louis, Cardinal of Lorraine, executed. At the beginning of 1589, he allied himself with Henri de Navarre; the two armies come to lay siege to Paris, where Charles, Duke of Mayenne, brother of Henri de Guise, and the League have taken power. It was then that a fanatic, Jacques Clément, assassinated Henry III (1589), whose heir, according to Salic law, was still Henry of Navarre (the future Henry IV).

To learn more, see the article Wars of Religion.

  1. FROM HENRI IV TO MAZARIN (1589-1661)
    8.1. THE REIGN OF HENRY IV: 1589-1610

Henry IV
The king first won the victories of Arques (1589) and Ivry (1590) over the leaguers, who refused to recognize him, but he failed before Paris. The League and the Spaniards ally against him. The daughter of Philip II of Spain, Isabella , claimed the crown of France, as well as Mayenne himself (States General of Paris, 1593). But the abjuration of Henri IV at Saint-Denis (July 25, 1593) saves France from the Spanish protectorate. The king is crowned in Chartres (February 1594). He undertakes the pacification and reconstruction of France.

The Edict of Nantes (April 13, 1598) gave Protestants freedom of worship, guaranteed, in particular, by the occupation, for eight years, of a hundred places of safety . The Protestants recover all their civic rights and retain their provincial and national synods. The Treaty of Vervins (May 1598) confirms the Treaty of Cateau-Cambrésis .

The royal authority is restored: limitation of the right of remonstrance of the parliaments, restriction of the powers of the provincial governors, lowering of the Large ones (execution of the marshal of Biron , shown of conspiracy with Spain, 1602).

Finances and the economy are restored thanks to Sully , general superintendent of Finances in 1598; colonization resumed (foundation of Quebec , 1608); a real national mercantilism is advocated by Barthélemy de Laffemas . Development of luxury manufactures. A royal urbanism is beginning to assert itself (Place Royale and Place Dauphine in Paris). On May 14, 1610, Henri IV was assassinated by Ravaillac .

8.2. THE REIGN OF LOUIS XIII: 1610-1643

Marie de Medici
The king was only nine years old when he became king, and parliament declared Queen Mother Marie de’ Medici regent . This one lets itself be dominated by Italian adventurers, in particular Concino Concini . The Protestants, worried about the influence of a conquering Catholicism linked to the Counter-Reformation and the Great, are agitated.

On April 24, 1617, Concini was assassinated with the consent of the young king, who gave his confidence to his favourite, Luynes ; the latter had to face noble uprisings and the revolt of the Protestants of the South. Luynes dies after failing in front of Montauban (1621).

Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal of Richelieu
To reconcile the interests of the Church and those of French diplomacy, the Queen Mother brought Richelieu into the Council of Regency , who became its head (1624). Richelieu worked to eliminate the Protestant political danger. After the capture of La Rochelle (1628), the Protestants were forced to surrender. The edict of grace of Alès (1629) confirms their tolerance, but suppresses their places of safety. The cardinal undertakes the struggle against the Great and the oligarchies of officers; he must thwart many plots, supported by the royal family; Chalais (1626), Duke Henri II of Montmorency (1632), Cinq-Mars(1642) are executed. The attempt at domestication extended to the arts and letters (creation in 1635 of the Académie française , soon solicited in Corneille ‘s “quarrel of the Cid” ) which oscillated between the influence of Italian Baroque (→ Caravaggism ) and the affirmation of classicism (→ Philippe de Champaigne , official portraitist of Richelieu).

→ classicism in the arts , classicism in literature .

Louis XIII
The Thirty Years’ War promotes the development of absolutism and monarchical centralization. Generalization of “departed commissioners”, who became “intendants of justice, police and finance”.

The colonial empire expands: development of colonization in Canada (foundation of Ville-Marie [Montreal], 1642); French settlement in Guadeloupe and Martinique (1635); counters in Senegal and Madagascar.

Quite quickly, Louis XIII and the cardinal sacrifice everything in the fight against the Habsburgs of Spain and Austria (entering the Thirty Years’ War in 1635). The French economy suffered the repercussions of this war, which lasted until 1659 against Spain alone. Crushed by taxes, rural populations are revolting in many places ( Croquants du Périgord, Va-nu-pieds de Normandie).


Anne of Austria and Louis XIV as a child
On May 18, 1643, the parliament annuls the will of Louis XIII. The Council of Regency is abolished; the young sovereign being only five years old, full powers were given to Anne of Austria , who named Mazarin as prime minister. As the war continued ( Condé ‘s victory at Rocroi in 1643, at Lens in 1648, just before the Treaties of Westphalia which put an end to the Thirty Years’ War and transferred the Emperor’s rights over Alsace to France), the finances are in a deplorable state; the government resorts to expedients. State abuses provoked the intervention of parliament, whose leaders (→ Broussel) are stopped. Then broke out the parliamentary Fronde (1648-1649), followed by the Fronde des princes (1650-1653), whose political record, for the slingers, was entirely negative.

Mazarin is then stronger than ever. The treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), by consecrating the triumph of France over Spain, earned him Artois and Roussillon; supplemented by the Peace of Oliva (1660) concluded between the powers of Northern Europe, it made France the arbiter of Europe. In 1660, Louis XIV married the Infanta Maria Theresa , a marriage which opened up the prospect of a Spanish succession.

To learn more, see the article La Fronde .

The first half of the 17th century was the golden age of the Church in France. The French school of spirituality radiates to the world, but Baroque art and literature (→ Baroque art , Baroque literature ) influence French works. However, at the height of its momentum, the Catholic Reformation questioned and divided: it was the crisis of Jansenism.

  1. LOUIS XIV (1661-1715)
    Louis XIV by Rigaud
    Jean-Baptiste Colbert
    When he died in 1661, Mazarin had already made Louis XIV the Great King. All the power is in the hands of the latter, who knows how to surround himself with excellent seconds like Colbert , Lionne, Le Tellier and Louvois .

The clergy is strictly hierarchical; all the spiritual powers belong to the bishops, well held in hand by the king. As for the nobility, it is not homogeneous; the great court nobility, prisoners of Versailles luxury and the debts they contracted there, depended entirely on the king, from whom they expected charges and gratifications. The commercial middle class is desirous of peace and order, while rises, favored by the expenses of war, the social group of the financiers.

In 1682 the clergy voted the Declaration of the Four Articles , which was not implemented but gave its charter to the Gallican Church . The king fights against the influence of the pope (affair of the regale ; occupation of Avignon, 1689-1690; affair of the Corsican guard, etc.). Any heterodox tendency is chased away; Jansenism was persecuted throughout the reign (destruction of the abbey of Port-Royal in 1709). The revocation of the Edict of Nantes , in 1685, caused the exile of more than 300,000 reformed and the persecution of the others: it culminated with the revolt of the camisards at the end of the reign (1702-1710). Mystics themselves are suspect. Fenelonwas disgraced, then condemned in 1699 for having supported quietism .

The reign of Louis XIV was also marked by a huge attempt at economic equipment, of which Colbert – a proponent of mercantilism – was the main driving force (defense of national production, with the royal factories: Gobelins , Saint-Gobain ).

In order to give more brilliance to his reign, Louis XIV encouraged or pensioned writers (→ Boileau , Racine , Molière ), painters (→ Le Brun , Mignard ), architects (→ Le Vau , Hardouin-Mansart ), musicians (→ Lully , Charpentier ), whose reputation served his glory. He extended the system of royal academies (painting and sculpture, music, dance, architecture, science), embellished Paris (→ Louvre , Tuileries , place des Victoires and place Vendôme). The refusal of the Italian Baroque was affirmed in 1665 with the rejection of Bernini ‘s project for the east facade of the Louvre in favor of that of Claude Perrault .

Louis XIV built a palace worthy of his grandeur at Versailles. For this undertaking, he brought together the greatest and most docile talents of his time, the gardener Le Nôtre , the water engineer Francine , the architects Le Vau and Hardouin-Mansart , the painter Le Brun . But, at the end of the reign, the splendours of classicism begin to weigh on a court and even on a king in search of more intimacy (transition towards rockery ).

For more, see the article Palace of Versailles .


If Colbert provided Louis XIV with an efficient navy, Louvois provided him with a well-equipped army. At the Peace of Nijmegen (1678), France receives Franche-Comté, the rest of Artois, Cambrai, Valenciennes, Maubeuge. Louis XIV claims to solve by authority the territorial problems which remain between France and its neighbors, in particular the German Empire. This is the questionable policy of the meetings (Alsace, Lorraine, Palatinate) concluded in full peace. The League of Augsburg was formed in 1686 to counter Louis XIV; despite the victories of the Marshal of Luxembourg , the Peace of Ryswick (1697) only gave France Strasbourg and confirmed its possession of Alsace. The expensiveWar of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714) leads the country to the edge of the abyss. But the victory of Denain (→ battle of Denain , 1712) makes it possible to avoid the worst. With the treaties of Utrecht and Rastatt (1713-1714), if Philippe V remains king of Spain, France is brought back to the limits of the treaty of Ryswick. The reign of the Sun King ends in general weariness.

For more, see the articles The Kingdom of France under Louis XIV , Louis XIV .

    10.1. THE REGENCY: 1715-1723
    The successor of the Sun King, his great-grandson Louis XV is a five-year-old child. The Duke of Orleans, Philippe, ensures the regency. This period is characterized by a general reaction against the austerity of the end of the reign of Louis XIV. Development of the Régence style, less solemn (→ Watteau ), evolving towards rockery, more decorative, even mannerist. The debt has increased; faced with the insufficiency of the results of the first measures, the Regent appealed to John Law , who first created a private bank, then tried in vain to convert the public debt (1716-1720).

10.2. THE REIGN OF LOUIS XV: 1723-1774

Louis XV
After the death of the Regent (1723) and the ministry of the mediocre Duke of Bourbon (1723-1726), Louis XV , who had come of age since 1723, entrusted the State to Cardinal de Fleury , who brought about peace, order and prosperity . The growth of trade is remarkable and relates particularly to colonial products.

Fleury maintains the alliance with England, while seeking that of Austria. The War of the Polish Succession , in which he was forced to intervene in 1733, made Stanislas Leszczyński, the king’s father-in-law, at the Treaty of Vienna (1738), the Duke of a Lorraine who, on his death ( 1766), will return to France. After the death of Fleury (1743), Louis XV governed by himself.

The War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) saw England, in the Austrian camp, being beaten at Fontenoy (1745) by the French of Maurice de Saxe , and in India, by La Bourdonnais , who seizes Madras (1746). But the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle (1748) brought nothing to France. In India and America, hostilities continue with England under cover of trading companies. In 1756, the “reversal of the alliances”, which saw France unite with Austria and England with Prussia, shortly preceded the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). On the continent, France is beaten by Frederick II at Rossbach(1757), and the English seized Canada (1760) and India (1761). The Treaty of Paris (1763) caused France to lose Canada, Louisiana and India, and established England’s colonial and economic preponderance.

For more, see the article British Colonial Empire .

Attempts at financial reform ( twentieth tax ) led by Machault d’Arnouville , encountered opposition from the privileged classes. From 1758 to 1770, Choiseul , absorbed in war and diplomacy, led a policy of accommodation. After the Treaty of Paris, military and naval reforms were put in place, but the parliaments of Rennes and Paris opposed the levying of new taxes; Choiseul , accused of supporting parliaments, is dismissed (1770). However, this one recorded successes in foreign policy: reunion of Lorraine in 1766, purchase of Corsica in 1768.

Choiseul was replaced by the “triumvirate” of ministers Maupeou-Terray-d’Aiguillon (1770-1774). Maupeou reduced the jurisdiction of the parliament of Paris (1771) in favor of six superior councils; he abolishes the venality of offices to break the independence of judges. The partial bankruptcies attempted by Terray coincide with a serious food shortage (1773).

Since 1740, the country has experienced a veritable demographic revolution, due to the end of famines and major epidemics, and to progress in medicine. Longevity increases and infant mortality decreases. In 1789, France had 28 million inhabitants. This growth promotes consumption and, therefore, production. It is also a factor of urbanization and therefore of industrialization.

After the Pompadour style (→ Marquise de Pompadour) , an extension of the rocaille (painter François Boucher ), from 1750-1770 a neoclassicism asserted itself inspired by the cultural policy of the General Directorate of Royal Buildings (→ Marigny , d’Angiviller ), with national and moralizing concerns (historical painting) from which the Revolution will inherit.

The bourgeoisie appreciates the opulent life, adopts and sponsors the ” Enlightenment ” propagated by the philosophers and the Encyclopaedists , Enlightenment which, by spreading, makes Europe a “French Europe”. Paris becomes “the temple of taste”, French is recognized as the language of all cultivated minds.

The century was marked by a critical spirit, scientific reasoning, which pushed people to shake off the yoke of dogma and authority in all areas: politics, with the criticism of absolutism ( Montesquieu called for the separation of powers and Rousseau outlines the project of a democratic state based on equality and popular sovereignty), religious and philosophical, with the fight against superstitions called for by Voltaire ( Calas , Sirven and La Barre cases ), scientist, with a multitude of inventions which follow one another and complement each other: physics takes off (→ Nollet , Réaumur ), Lavoisierfounded modern chemistry, Buffon developed the natural sciences. The engineer Cugnot ‘s first steam-powered car and the Montgolfier brothers’ first hot-air balloons . But scientific innovation is international, and its technical applications are mainly English.

    Louis XVI
    Marie AntoinetteLouis XVII
    From 1774, the Maupeou reform was abolished. The comptroller general of finances Turgot adopts a policy of economic liberalism. But his reforms failed in the face of opposition from the privileged classes and speculators. Turgot is dismissed (May 1776), when a serious economic recession hits France. His successor, Necker , preferred, to deep reforms, a policy based on borrowing and the simplification of financial administration (development of governance).

Jacques Necker

The creation of provincial assemblies, with a view to involving the nation in the administration of the kingdom, came up against opposition from the parliaments. In 1781, Necker published a “Report to the King” concerning the budgetary situation; the violent reaction of the privileged courtiers causes his dismissal.

From 1783 to 1787, Calonne then tried a policy of ease: “Spending to restore confidence”. Major works are launched to stimulate the economy (Le Havre, Cherbourg); but, in February 1787, the meeting of the assembly of notables is opposed to any reform suppressing the privileges; Calonne is fired in April. Abroad , Vergennes practices a policy of prestige; he intervened victoriously in the American War of Independence without however bringing down English power.

France in 1789

Loménie de Brienne , who succeeded Calonne, could no longer do anything effective, because he came up against powerful parliaments, particularly in Béarn, Brittany and Dauphiné. He pushes the reform of Lamoignon (May 8, 1788), which dissociates the political and judicial powers of the parliaments, but he comes up against such opposition that the meeting of the states general, demanded by public opinion, is granted (August 8, 1788) . On August 25, 1788, Loménie de Brienne was dismissed and replaced by Necker, whose popularity increased when he granted the doubling of the third estate for representation in the States General. The elections took place in the spring of 1789 in a calm disturbed by the food riots (disastrous harvest of 1788).

To learn more, see the article Ancien Régime .

  1. THE FRENCH REVOLUTION (1789-1799)
    Opening of the Estates General at Versailles, May 5, 1789

The Estates General met at Versailles on May 5, 1789. The supporters of the reforms (third, lower clergy and a few nobles) were numerically the most numerous and wanted a per capita vote.

Louis David, the Tennis Court Oath

The king deciding nothing, the third party declares itself National Assembly and undertakes by the oath of the Tennis court (June 20) to give a Constitution to the country. Louis XVI gives in and, on July 9, the Estates General become the Constituent National Assembly; the dismissal of Necker (July 11) and the capture of the Bastille by the Parisians (July 14) revive the conflict.

→ political assemblies in France since 1789 .

Jean-François Janinet, Storming of the Bastille by the French Guards and the Bourgeois of Paris

A revolutionary municipality and a national guard settle in Paris, soon imitated by the provincial towns. The old administration collapses while the agrarian revolt arms the countryside against their lords and privileges. This revolt is transformed (second half of July) into a larger and disconcerting movement, a collective panic which is called the Great Fear and which disconcerts the bourgeois Assembly; it will henceforth endeavor to control and direct the People’s Revolution. On the night of August 4, 1789 , it abolished feudal privileges and rights, before voting the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (August 26).

Paris, July 12, 1789

The recall of some troops to Versailles displeased the Parisians, who, on October 5 and 6, invaded the palace and forcibly brought the royal family back to Paris. Even before the completion of the constitutional text, the pressure of financial needs led the Revolution to make the property of the clergy available to the nation (November 2, 1789). The buyers of these national assets (a tenth of the territory) will be above all bourgeois or well-to-do peasants, who will form a mass (3 million individuals) naturally attached to the achievements of the Revolution.

Louis Le Coeur, the celebration of the Federation

This nationalization is inseparable from the civil service undertaken by the Civil Constitution of the Clergy (July 12, 1790) which unilaterally abolished the Concordat regime of 1516; this causes a break between the priests who have taken the civic oath and the refractory , and in fact upsets Christian life in France (→ Constitutional Church ). The Constituent Assembly (→ Constituent Assembly ) replaced all the administrative structures of the Old Regime, which were often incoherent; 83 departments will serve as a framework for public, religious and financial institutions and functions in contemporary France. On July 14, 1790, the completion of the Revolution is celebrated by the feast of the Federation.

Arrest of Louis XVI
Sans-culotteThe Woman of the Sans Culotte
But the flight of Louis XVI and his arrest at Varennes (night of June 20 to 21, 1791) caused great trouble. While petitioners, led by the Cordeliers club , demanded the forfeiture of the king, La Fayette , commanding the national guard, fired on them (July 17, 1791). And, while emigration fueled plots against revolutionary France abroad, many provinces (West and South especially) were tormented by a strong counter-revolutionary movement, which was opposed, in Paris and in the cities, a sans-culotte movementhighly politicized and pushing for the downfall of royalty. The Constitution of September 1791 maintains a hereditary monarchy enjoying a suspensive veto against a single Legislative Assembly; it enshrines the distinction between active citizens and passive citizens.

Marquis de Lafayette

The bourgeois revolutionaries elected to this assembly are divided into two clans: the Feuillants , who want to “stop” the Revolution; the Brissotins or Girondins , who want to pursue it in the union of the people and the bourgeoisie. The war will clarify and harden attitudes. It is wanted both by the king and the Court, who play the politics of the worst, by La Fayette, in search of glory, and the Girondins, who want to unmask the king. Europe was worried about the annexation by France of Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin (September 1791).

Capture of the Tuileries

On April 20, 1792, war was declared “on the King of Bohemia and Hungary”, that is to say on the Emperor, soon joined by Prussia. The disorganized French armies retreated to the Netherlands before the Austrians, while the Prussian invasion of Lorraine began. On July 11, 1792, the Assembly proclaimed the country in danger; volunteers are raised. On August 10, 1792, faced with the Prussian threat (→ Brunswick manifesto, July 25), the Parisian riot resulted in the creation of an insurrectionary Commune (→ Paris Commune ). The Assembly proclaims the suspension of the King, which it replaces with a Provisional Executive Council.

First Terror: Abbey massacres, September 6, 1792
From August to September 1792, the external danger worsened (taking of Longwy [August 23], of Verdun [September 2]), and the Commune caused the first terror to reign (→ September massacres ). The invasion was stopped at Valmy on September 20, 1792. On the 22nd, the republic was proclaimed.

12.3. THE CONVENTION: 1792-1795
France under the Convention

The split in the revolutionary bourgeoisie, which began on August 10, 1792, was confirmed in the new Assembly by the opposition between the Girondins, for whom a return to order was henceforth essential, and the Jacobins (→ Montagnards ), who wanted to oppose to the domestic and foreign aristocracy a decidedly popular revolution.

Battle of Jemmapes
Louis XVI on the scaffold
At first, the victories favored the Girondins. Savoy and Belgium (→ Jemmapes , November 6, 1792) are annexed. But the Montagnards impose the trial of the king, who is condemned to death and executed on January 21, 1793. Around England, in February 1793, the first coalition against France is formed. Inside, it is the financial crisis, inflation, the crisis of subsistence, the misery of the working class.

La Rochejaquelein
public safety committee
After the defeat of Neerwinden (March 18, 1793), the conquests were lost, and France was threatened, especially as the Vendée insurrection broke out (→ War of Vendée ). A General Defense Committee, a Revolutionary Tribunal and a Public Safety Committee are created. They gradually replaced the Girondine Assembly, considered inactive. On June 2, 1793, the Girondins, who opposed the emergency measures, were eliminated. The province revolts (Lyon, East, South, West), federalist movements break out.

Maximilian of Robespierre
Saint Just
Faced with the conjunction of perils, the Mountain – dominated by Robespierre , Danton , Marat , Saint-Just – formed a bloc with the popular forces won over by Hébertism (→ Jacques Hébert ). Exceptional measures are taken: the maximum of the prices, the Terror , the law of the suspects . A revolutionary government was formed: the Convention was assisted by two councils, the Committee of Public Safety and the Committee of General Security . Representatives with full powers set off on a mission to the provinces.

Second Terror: massacres of Lyon, December 14, 1793
In the religious field, it is dechristianization, which is advocated by the sans-culottes and, in the economic field, the law of the general maximum (September 1793). But the levy en masse (August 23, 1793) provides men at the borders. The situation abroad is reversed (victory of Wattignies , October 1793; resumption of Toulon, December 1793); the internal insurrection is subdued: Vendée defeat, recovery of Lyon (October 1793).

Battle of Fleurus
Cult of the Supreme Being
The Robespierrists therefore took matters into their own hands; they successively eliminated the Hébertists (March 1794), then the indulgents , or Dantonists (April 1794). It is the “reign” of Robespierre (aggravation of the Terror, cult of the Supreme Being ). But the victory at Fleurus (June 26, 1794) and the reconquest of Belgium rendered the Terror useless in the eyes of public opinion, and the disunity of the revolutionary government enabled the Convention to get rid of Robespierre, the scapegoat of the activists of the Terror who fear to suffer the fate of their victims (→ days of 9 and 10 Thermidor Year II , July 27 and 28, 1794).

A violent anti-revolutionary reaction then took place which went as far as the royalist insurrection, moreover repressed in Quiberon by Hoche (July 1795) and in Paris by Bonaparte (→ day of 13 Vendémiaire Year IV , October 5, 1795).

Council of Five Hundred
The Thermidorian Convention is the time of luxury spread by the “rogues” who killed Robespierre, the time of misery and the revolts of the Parisian sans-culottes (April and May 1795), revolts crushed by force. The Treaties of Basel and The Hague (April-July 1795) broke up the first coalition, from which Prussia, Holland and Spain withdrew; France is mistress of Belgium and of the left bank of the Rhine. The Constitution of Year III (1795) establishes the Directory and ratifies the property tax system, conducive to the government of the “proprietors”; the “two-thirds” decree renews the Thermidorian personnel.

For more, see the National Convention article .

12.4. THE DIRECTORY: 1795-1799
Paul Barras
Lazare CarnotEmmanuel Sieyes
The enriched revolutionaries are maintained by coups de force. In May 1796, the army repressed the conspiracy of the Babouvists (→ conspiracy of the Equals ). By the coup of 18 Fructidor Year V (September 4, 1797), the royalist deputies were arrested and deported. The Jacobin deputies were invalidated by the coup d’etat of 22 Floreal Year VI (May 11, 1798). The coup d’etat of 30 Prairial (June 18, 1799) finally saw the Jacobin majority of the councils force three directors to resign.

A regime with empty coffers, the Directory used the war of conquest for the money it brought in. If 1796 saw the failure of the Carnot plan against Austria (→ Jourdan , Moreau ), Bonaparte led a victorious campaign in Italy from March 1796 to April 1797 and, on October 18, 1797, the Peace of Campoformio was signed : the Pays- Lower Austrians (Belgium) are annexed; States under French influence (the “sister republics”) are created in Italy, Switzerland and Holland.

Coup of Brumaire Year VIII
Popular, Bonaparte took his troops on the Egyptian campaign , directed against England. But 1799 saw the formation of the second coalition between Austria, Russia and England. Masséna’s victory at Zurich (September 1799) saves France. Bonaparte, back from Egypt (October 1799), took the lead of a revisionist party and overthrew the Directory by the coup d’etat of 18 and 19 Brumaire Year VIII (November 1799).

For more, see the articles Directoire , French Revolution.

  1. THE CONSULATE (1799-1804)
    Napoleon Bonaparte

Bonaparte immediately began a series of institutional reforms. In December 1799, he drafted the Constitution of Year VIII and had it approved by plebiscite. It gives the reality of power to the First Consul Bonaparte: the latter, in 1802, will obtain the consulship for life. In February 1800, the administration was reorganized: local institutions were weakened in favor of strong centralization (creation of prefects and sub-prefects). In March 1800, justice was reorganized: centralization and hierarchy between the jurisdictions up to the Council of State and the Court of Cassation ; abolition of the election of judges; creation of courts of appeal. Financial reorganization took place from 1799 to 1801: taxes were centralized and simplified, the Banque de Francewas created in February 1800. In May 1802, the school reform was enacted; high schools replace central schools.

Georges Cadoudal

Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien
At the same time, Bonaparte pursued a policy of appeasement and firmness. With regard to the royalists first: 52,000 emigrants were authorized to return (October 1800); the chouans are granted amnesty. But, after the attack of the rue Saint-Nicaise (December 1800) and especially after that of Cadoudal , the repression strikes the irreducible or pretended such (execution of the Duke of Enghien , March 21, 1804).

Concordat, 1801

With regard to the Jacobins then: guarantee of national property, but repression of real or supposed conspiracies. Finally, he proceeded to religious pacification, in particular by the concordat of 1801. But, faced with the risk of anticlerical opposition, Bonaparte added organic articles without consulting the pope. In the economic field, protectionist measures are taken (tariffs).

Abroad, at the end of a new Italian campaign (1800), Bonaparte brought Austria to sign the Treaty of Lunéville (1801) and recovered in Italy the territories lost in 1799. England, isolated , decides to treat in turn (→ Peace of Amiens , 1802). The popularity of the First Consul is at its zenith. But, from 1803, the Peace of Amiens was broken by England, worried about French economic and colonial expansion (Santo Domingo → Dominican Republic ). Bonaparte prepares the invasion of the island.

For more information, see the article the Consulate .

  1. THE FIRST EMPIRE (1804-1814)
    Napoleon I

In 1804, by the Constitution of the year XII, ratified by plebiscite, Bonaparte became Emperor of the French under the name of Napoleon i. He is consecrated at Notre-Dame de Paris by the Pope (December 2). The imperial regime will be a personal regime with some liberal appearances (maintenance of elected assemblies, but without power and recruited among notables) and others of a monarchical character: institution of the Legion of Honor , which becomes a body united to the sovereign by personal allegiance; creation of an imperial court and an Empire nobility.

Joseph Fouche

After the suppression of the Tribunate , the most rebellious of the assemblies, in 1807, the evolution is done in the direction of despotism. The means of government are based on centralization, an appointed and supervised magistracy, the development of indirect taxes through the creation of monopolies (tobacco), the importance of the police (→ Joseph Fouché ), the surveillance of the press and books , the action of the Church, which supported the Emperor until 1808, the monopoly of education by the State (1808) and the supervision of teachers.

In economic matters, we note the progress of agriculture, with new crops, sugar beets (made necessary by the Continental Blockade ), chicory, etc. The textile industry (North) is developing, as well as coal mining (Saar) and metallurgy (Lorraine, Liège). New communication routes are created (Simplon, Mont-Cenis, Saint-Quentin canal). But the capital event is the extinction – due to naval defeats and the continental blockade of English products – of the great maritime trade of the Atlantic coast (Nantes, Bordeaux) and the Mediterranean coast (Marseille) as well as of the economic activity of the hinterland.

In social matters, we are witnessing the rise of the bourgeoisie, while a reserve of “notables” is created. But the workers remain in a precarious condition. If the wealthy peasants are prosperous (purchase of national assets), the Continental Blockade and the war economy pose serious social problems in the countryside, where the imperial army is mainly recruited. Farm workers are in dire straits. Conscription , unemployment , bad harvests (1811) will become ferments of opposition to the regime.

Louis François Lejeune, Napoleon’s Bivouac on the Eve of Austerlitz

The Empire knows the clash of arms. Determined to invade England, Napoleon concentrated his army at Camp de Boulogne . To divert the danger, the English cause the coalition of Prussia and Austria against France. In October 1805, the French fleet was defeated at Trafalgar . The Emperor then tries to defeat England on the continent by fighting his allies. The Battle of Austerlitz (December 2) dismantles the 3rd Coalition (→ treaty of Pressburg ). Heir to the revolutionary expansionist mystique, Napoleon replaced the old sister republics with vassal kingdoms which he distributed to his parents as he conquered them. He himself is king ofConfederation of the Rhine , from which Austria is excluded and which is erected on the ruins of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806.

Battle of Jena

For ten years, it was a series of victories against a coalition always defeated and always reformed: Iéna and Auerstedt in 1806, Eylau and Friedland in 1807 (4th coalition ); Wagram in 1809 (5th coalition ). But neither the defeats of its allies, nor the Continental Blockade (1806), nor the privateering war made England bend, which, free at sea, still extended the British colonial Empire to the detriment of the French and the Dutch.

If Russia, in 1807, at Tilsit, made peace with Napoleon, her empire remained practically intact; in 1808, the Emperor began a war in Spain which was to lead him to ruin; by occupying Rome (1809) and treating Pope Pius VII as a prisoner, he alienated the Catholics of the Empire. In 1810, he married Marie-Louise of Austria; he is then at the height of his power. His empire includes 130 French departments and stretches from the North Sea to the Adriatic. It is surrounded by a belt of satellite states (Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands) and, further afield, states that are allies or, at least, forced into this alliance (Austria, Prussia, Denmark, Sweden , Russia). In 1811, the Emperor had a son, ).

But the continental system is precarious, and Russia does not accept it. Napoleon decided in 1812 to go and force the Tsar ( Alexander I ) on his own soil to respect the Continental Blockade. The invasion of Russia, the battle of the Moskva, the capture of Moscow, then the terrible retreat and the defeat of the Berezina are the signal awaited by Europe to shake off the yoke imposed by Napoleon. In 1813, Prussia and Austria defected; all of Europe is rising. The battles of Lützen, Bautzen and Leipzig could not stem the tide of the enemy armies, which, in 1814, despite the French campaign , invaded the national territory and forced Napoleon to abdicate (April 6) and go into exile on the island of Elba.

To find out more, see the articles First Empire , Napoleon i.

    Louis XVIII , brother of Louis XVI, is restored by the Allies; it grants the country a Constitutional Charter (tax system, two chambers) and maintains most of the transformations carried out during the Revolution and the Empire. On May 30, 1814, the first Treaty of Paris was signed, bringing France back to its 1792 borders. The new regime, which openly favored emigrants and the Church, displeased public opinion.

Battle of Ligny
Napoleon in the island of Saint Helena
Taking advantage of this state of mind, Napoleon left the island of Elba, landed at Golfe-Juan (March 1 , 1815) and went to Paris, from where Louis XVIII fled. But the Emperor did not set up a more liberal regime (→ Additional Act ); it must, moreover, face Europe, once again united. It was the Belgian campaign, Waterloo (June 18) and soon Napoleon’s second abdication (June 22), that the English sent to die on Saint Helena . France, invaded, occupied, loses, in the second treaty of Paris (November 20), several conquered territories.

For more, see the articles First Restoration , The Hundred Days.

    16.1. THE REIGN OF LOUIS XVIII: 1815-1824
    Louis XVIII

Three political tendencies confront each other: the ultras, supporters of the return of the Old Regime, relying on the count of Artois, brother of the king; the Constitutionalists, supporters of the Charter; the Liberals, a disparate coalition of Bonapartists and heirs to the Revolution.

During the summer of 1815, it was the White Terror , which struck especially the faithful of the Emperor. In August, an ultra-royalist chamber, the “Untraceable Chamber”, was elected, which practiced a policy of reaction. It was dissolved in September 1816 by Louis XVIII, who appealed to moderates: ministries Richelieu (1816-1818), Decazes (1818-1820). In 1818, at the congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, France obtained the withdrawal of the allied military forces.

On February 13, 1820, the assassination of the Duke of Berry , son of the Count of Artois, caused the dismissal of Decazes and directed policy towards reaction (Villèle ministry). As a result, a revolutionary movement began (1820-1822), driven above all by Carbonarism and which ultimately failed. Louis XVIII died in 1824; the Count of Artois becomes King of France under the name of Charles X.

For more, see the article Second Restoration .

16.2. THE REIGN OF CHARLES X: 1824-1830
Charles X

The new king embodies, in the eyes of the liberals, the clerical and absolutist counter-revolution. Under the Villele ministry, the law on sacrilege and that of the billion of emigrants (in reparation for the sale of national property) were promulgated [in fact only 700,000 francs were paid to the former owners]. But the opposition manifests itself in the street and in the Chamber, which Villele dissolves (1827). New elections see the defeat of the latter, who resigns (1828). After the ineffective interlude of a more liberal ministry chaired by Martignac (1828-1829), the ultras returned to power in force with the Prince de Polignac (1829).

July 1830, fighting in the rue de Rohan

The Liberal Chamber manifests its opposition; it is the “ Address of the 221” Liberal deputies, who express their distrust of the ministry (March 1830). On July 25, the four ordinances of Saint-Cloud were promulgated: restriction of freedom of the press, dissolution of the Chamber, limitation of the right to vote at the expense of industrialists and merchants, and organization of new elections. Immediately Paris rises: these are the Three Glorious Days (→ days of July 27, 28 and 29) . Charles X abdicated, and Louis-Philippe, Duke of Orléans, took the title of lieutenant general of the kingdom before becoming “king of the French”.

With a clear delay on the close countries, France enters the era of the romanticism. The old taste for order, reason, moderation seems forgotten. Classicism is defeated. Young writers (→ Hugo , Lamartine , Musset , Vigny ) now seek inspiration in their own moods. Passions are unleashed in the canvases of Géricault and Delacroix , in the music of Berlioz . The “evil of the century” becomes fashionable. We are moved by the poetry of ruins, of death, of tombs, of a dismal Middle Ages, in reaction to the cult of ancient history that had been professed by the artists of the Revolution and the Empire (→ David, Big ). It is especially in the theater that the changes are spectacular: the premiere of Hugo’s drama, Hernani (1830) gives rise to a real battle between the supporters of the old aesthetics and the romantics, who raise the standard of a revolt on the way to becoming also political (→ battle of Hernani) .

For more, see the articles Romanticism in Art , Romanticism in Literature .

  1. THE JULY MONARCHY (1830-1848)
    Louis-Philippe I

Louis-Philippe , King of the French, was sworn in before the Chambers on August 9, 1830. Several liberal concessions were made: revision of the Charter , restoration of the tricolor flag, lowering of the electoral quota. The regime of the bourgeois monarchy must take account of a triple opposition: that of the Legitimists, that of the Bonapartists and that of the Republicans. As for the supporters of the regime, particularly suspicious of the “working classes”, they are divided into the “movement party” (liberal) and the “resistance party” (conservative). The ministry of the Laffitte “movement” (November 2, 1830-March 13, 1831) was unable to curb the disorder.

Casimir Perier

The minister of “resistance” Casimir Perier (March 13, 1831-May 16, 1832) brutally suppressed the agitation (→ revolt of the canuts of Lyon, November 1831; in Paris, Saint-Merry district, June 1832). In 1835, Fieschi ‘s attack on Louis-Philippe (July 28) was followed by repressive measures, particularly against the press (September laws). From May 1839 to October 1840, the Soult and then Thiers ministries followed one another . This one is rejected because he wants the war against England. However, the bourgeoisie in power is pacifist.

Francois Guizot

The king then appealed to Guizot . The latter, first Minister of Foreign Affairs (1840-1847), then President of the Council (1847-1848), held the real power. He pursues a policy of internal stability, favored by the candidacies of civil servants. Hostile to any reform, he encouraged economic development and general enrichment (savings banks). It organizes primary education.

Abroad, France faded: concessions to England concerning Tahiti (→ Pritchard affair ) and Treaty of London (1840); Algeria is conquered little by little (taking of the smala of Abd el-Kader , 1843; surrender of the emir, 1847).

The development of the urban proletariat and the great economic depression of 1846-1847 favored the strengthening of the ideological opposition (liberal Catholics with La Mennais , Lacordaire , Montalembert ; socialists with Louis Blanc , Pierre Leroux , Proudhon), while the urban proletariat develops. In the Chamber, the opposition calls for electoral reform; on this theme the campaign of the Reform Banquets unfolds. On February 22-24, 1848, the banning of banquets in Paris provoked a demonstration. Louis-Philippe dismisses Guizot, but the shooting of the Boulevard des Capucines leads to the uprising of Paris, the capture of the Hôtel de Ville and the abdication of Louis-Philippe (February 24).

For more, see the article July Monarchy.

  1. THE SECOND REPUBLIC ( 1848-1851)
    Alphonse de Lamartine

Ledru Rollin
From February to April 1848, a provisional government (→ Lamartine , Ledru-Rollin , Louis-Antoine Garnier-Pagès , Louis Blanc…) was imposed by the Parisian revolutionaries. The republic was proclaimed at the Hôtel de Ville (February 24-25), universal suffrage established (March 2), freedoms (press, association, right to work) restored, the death penalty and slavery abolished, while that national workshops are created (February 27) and that the working day is reduced. But the Constituent Assembly, elected in April 1848, was predominantly conservative and anti-socialist. It removes the national workshops , increases the direct tax and is brutally repressed by Louis Eugène Cavaignacthe Parisian workers’ uprising of June 23-26, 1848 .

In November the Constitution of 1848 is voted and promulgated (a president elected for 4 years by universal suffrage, but not immediately re-eligible; only one Legislative Assembly). On December 10, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte, the Emperor’s nephew, was elected President of the Republic.

The election of the Legislative Assembly, in May 1849, saw the triumph of the Orleanists, Legitimists and Catholics, who grouped together in a party of the Order (more than 450 deputies out of 750). The Assembly took a series of reactionary measures against the “spirit of 1848”, in particular the Falloux law (March 1850), which abolished the school monopoly of the University and reinforced the control of education by the clergy, reduced universal suffrage (residence obligation at least 3 years) [May], decreases the freedom of the press (July).

18.2. … TO THE COUP OF 1851
The prince-president, wishing to perpetuate his power and taking advantage of the unpopularity of the Assembly, dissolved it by the coup d’etat of December 2, 1851 . Attempts at resistance are crushed; Republicans and Socialists are arrested and exiled.

As early as January 1852, a monarchical-style Constitution was established: civil servants were put under supervision, new limitations were imposed on the freedom of the press. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte was proclaimed emperor on December 2, 1852, following a triumphant plebiscite, under the name of Napoleon III .

To find out more, see the article II e République .

  1. THE SECOND EMPIRE (1852-1870)
    Napoleon III

In a first period (1852-1860), the regime was characterized by authoritarianism. The government and the administration are all-powerful and enjoy the support of the clergy, the business bourgeoisie, the army. Political life is stifled (surveillance of elections, division of electoral constituencies, official candidacies). The opposition is weak and divided. In 1858, the failed attack of Orsini against the emperor allows the latter to attack the republican opposition (which had 5 elected in 1857): law of General Security , arrest of many suspects.

Congress of Paris, 1856

Jean-Louis Ernest Meissonier, Napoleon III at the Battle of Solferino
The Emperor’s foreign policy is based on the principles of the search for military or diplomatic prestige, the revision of the treaties of 1815, the pursuit of colonial expansion (intervention in Kabylia, 1857), respect for the principle nationalities in Europe. The Crimean War (1854-1856) was bloody, but the Treaty of Paris (March 30, 1856) which ended it gave France a preponderant place in Europe. Following the military intervention in Italy in 1859, the Treaty of Zurich (November 1859) ceded Lombardy to France, which gave it to Piedmont. By the Treaty of Turin (March 1860), Savoy and Nice are attached to France.

In a second period (1860-1870), the regime was liberalized. The causes are the defection of business circles, who fear the competition of English products with the lowering of customs tariffs (trade treaties with England, 1860), and Catholics (Italian policy of Napoleon III interpreted as hostile to the temporal power of the pope). Also the emperor, seeking support on the left, is led to make political and social concessions.

Political: the Legislative Body gradually recovers the parliamentary prerogatives (right of address, 1860; right of interpellation , 1867; legislative initiative , 1869); surveillance of the press is relaxed (1868); the right of assembly was granted in 1868.

Leon Gambetta

Social: the law on combinations (1864) admits the right to strike . But the emperor did not succeed in rallying the working masses, more and more attracted by revolutionary and international socialism . The legal opposition grew stronger (32 opponents in the 1863 elections; more than 70 in 1869).

In 1869 Gambetta set out Belleville’s republican program . Napoleon III felt public opinion escaping him: the senatus-consultum of April 20, 1870, which amounted to a new Constitution, was nevertheless massively ratified by the plebiscite of May 8. The Empire seems more solid than ever, on the eve of its collapse.

The disaster of Sedan: surrender of Napoleon III

In addition, foreign policy, after successful interventions (military intervention in Syria in favor of the Maronite Christians [1860], conquest of Cochinchina [1859-1867] and establishment of the protectorate over Cambodia [1863]), experienced failures: first that of the expedition to Mexico (1862-1867), then that of the diplomatic intervention in the Austro-Prussian war (1866). Napoleon III allowed himself to be maneuvered by Bismarck , who wanted to strengthen German unity through a French defeat.

In July 1870, he declared war on Prussia (→ Franco-German War ). The imperial armies are quickly driven back from Alsace and Lorraine. On September 2, 1870, in invested Sedan, Napoleon III had to surrender, soon followed by the army of Mac-Mahon . On September 4, 1870, the bourgeois republicans proclaimed the republic in Paris.

France, thanks to the coal revolution, takes on its modern face: industrialization on the English model, favored by free trade (trade treaty of 1860). The monetary situation is improving; manufacturing industry and big business, favored by private credit and public credit, and partly inspired by Saint-Simonism (→ Saint-Simon ), developed. Communications are modernizing rapidly, urbanization is intensifying, industrial concentration (Saint-Étienne, Decazeville, Le Creusot, basins of Lorraine, etc.) profoundly modifies the living conditions of the underprivileged social strata. Paris is transformed by the work of Haussmann .

This rise had the reverse of the impoverishment of the proletariat and the awareness of its problems (strikes followed by troop interventions). From 1867, the numerous strikes – often crushed by force – bear witness to the rise of the working class.

For more, see the article Industrial Revolution .

While the Empire and the bourgeoisie promoted a starched official art (the “firefighter” style illustrated by the canvases of Meissonnier and Winterhalter , the operas of Meyerbeer and Gounod ), romanticism was running out of steam and numerous reactions were emerging against it. The acerbic realism of Courbet ‘s canvases and Manet ‘s impressionism aroused the ridicule of the public at the 1863 Salon des Refusés . symbolism.

For more, see the articles Impressionism , Symbolism .

    Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871

The National Defense government, despite the efforts of Gambetta , was unable to loosen the straitjacket formed by the German troops around Paris, which, after a terrible siege, capitulated on January 28, 1871. The same day the armistice was signed, linked to the election of a National Assembly charged with making peace.

Adolphe Thiers

The Assembly, elected on February 8, is made up overwhelmingly of monarchists, favorable to peace and hostile to Paris. Meeting in Bordeaux, it ratifies (March 1 ) the preliminaries of peace (cession to Germany of Alsace, except Belfort, and part of Lorraine, military occupation, indemnity of 5 billion), which will be ratified the Treaty of Frankfurt (May). On February 17, she entrusts executive power to Thiers pending a monarchical restoration; she herself moved to Versailles, out of distrust of Paris.

On March 18, 1871, the Paris Commune broke out. This movement, essentially popular and supported by the national guard, was crushed by Thiers and Mac-Mahon after the “bloody week” (21-28 May). The left is decapitated (20,000 to 30,000 dead; 7,500 deportations).

For more information, see the article the Commune .

20.2. ROOTING OF THE REPUBLIC: 1871-1879
Mac Mahon

After an intransigent manifesto by the Count of Chambord , the Orléanist-Legitimist fusion failed (July 5); Thiers is named “President of the French Republic” (August). He reorganized the state and the administration. But the monarchist majority in the Assembly overthrew Thiers and called the legitimist Mac-Mahon to the presidency of the Republic (May 24, 1873).

The Duc de Broglie forms the ministry. The government, the Assembly and the Catholics agree in favor of the restoration. The intransigence of the Count of Chambord, a legitimist pretender, who refuses the tricolor flag, aborts this project (October 27, 1873). A law fixed the mandate of the President of the Republic at seven years (November 1873).

Jules Grevy

In May 1874, the de Broglie cabinet fell: the moderates approached the republicans. The constitutional laws are passed in February-July 1875. The republic is founded (a President of the Republic elected by the Congress of the two Chambers; a Senate elected by a college; a Chamber of Deputies elected by universal suffrage). The National Assembly separates (December 1875). The 1876 elections brought a narrow right-wing majority to the Senate and a strong Republican majority to the House. On May 16, 1877, the minister Jules Simon , in disagreement with Mac-Mahon, resigned, and the latter recalled de Broglie to the government, then dissolved the Assembly. A House with a Republican majority is elected in October: Mac-Mahon submits and accepts the Dufaure ministry(december). Finally, the January 1879 elections to the Senate gave the majority to the Republicans. MacMahon resigns. The Assembly elects the Republican Jules Grévy as President of the Republic. The Chambers and the government returned to Paris: in July 1880, an amnesty law was passed in favor of those deported from the Commune.

  1. THE THIRD republic UNTIL 1914
    Georges Clemenceau

The victorious Republicans are divided into radicals ( Clemenceau ) and opportunists ( Jules Ferry and Gambetta , anxious to wait for the “opportune” moment to advance reforms), but all make anticlericalism the main weapon against right-wing reaction . The ministries will all be opportunists until 1885: Freycinet (1879-1880; 1882), Gambetta (November 1881-January 1882), Ferry (September 1880-November 1881, February 1883-March 1885).

The Republicans carried out profound reforms: primary education became free (June 1881), then secular and compulsory (March 1882). In secondary school, high schools for young girls are created. In higher education, only the State now confers grades. The freedoms of assembly (June 1881), of the press (July 1881), of professional associations or trade unions (March 1884) are granted.

But the country entered a period of economic depression, with the phylloxera crisis , competition from foreign wheat, a banking crisis (crash of the General Union [1882]). However, the Republicans embark on colonial expansion (Tunisia, Black Africa, Indochina).

21.2. THE TIME OF CRISES: 1885-1899

The economic crisis strengthens the opponents of the regime. Grévy , elected in 1885, had to resign in 1887. The crisis was accompanied by strike movements (Decazeville, Vierzon); we are witnessing the revival of monarchist and nationalist movements. Around General Boulanger crystallized a motley opposition, and a crisis broke out in January 1889 when the general, triumphantly elected in Paris, hesitated to march on the Elysée. The 1889 elections marked the triumph of the Republicans. Leo XIII recommends the rallying of Catholics to the republic (1892). The number of socialist deputies of all tendencies increases ( Jean Jaurès , Millerand ).

At the presidency of the Republic and in the government, the moderates ( Jean Casimir-Perier , Félix Faure ) carried out a policy of appeasement in the anticlerical struggle, took protectionist measures (the Méline law of 1892) and hostility towards new social measures.

Sadi Carnot, poster

Following the Panamá scandal , the personnel in power was renewed ( Poincaré , Barthou , Delcassé ). A wave of anarchist attacks shook the country; Sadi Carnot was assassinated in Lyon in June 1894, which led to the vote of “rogue laws”, including the transfer to the criminal courts of press offences.

The traitor. Degradation of Alfred Dreyfus

The Dreyfus affair (1894-1899) resulted in the development of nationalist and anti-Semitic agitation, to which the formation of the Left Bloc responded .

In foreign policy, France emerged from its isolation thanks to the Franco-Russian alliance (1891-1894). Colonial expansion continues (occupation and pacification of Madagascar, junction between North Africa, West Africa and Equatorial Africa). But France must humble itself before England at Fashoda (→ Fashoda affair , 1898).

Nationalism (→ Action française ) received a doctrine with Charles Maurras , while socialism gradually unified around Marxism and, in liaison with the Second International , with Jules Guesde and Jean Jaurès . Most of the trade unions (authorized in 1884) regrouped in 1895 in the General Confederation of Labor (Congress of Limoges). As for Christian democracy, it wants to combine the evangelical ideal with republican principles; but the condemnation of Le Sillon in 1910 dealt him a very hard blow.

21.4. THE RADICAL REPUBLIC: 1899-1906
The Left Bloc , which was in power until 1905, practiced a resolutely republican and anticlerical policy ( Waldeck-Rousseau [1899-1902] and Combes [1902-1905] ministries). With the law on associations (July 1901), he attacked religious congregations, which now had to be authorized in order to be able to teach. In July 1904, after a series of anticlerical measures, the last of which was the prohibition of teaching to all congregations, there was a break with the Holy See. In November, the Fiches affair brought about the fall of Combes (January 1905). His law on the separation of Church and State was passed on December 9, 1905 on the contribution ofAristide Briand . The presidency of Émile Loubet is also marked by the Franco-British agreement of April 8, 1904 which inaugurates the Entente cordiale .

Armand Fallieres

In April 1905, the Socialists (Briand, Jaurès, Guesde) regrouped within the Second International and created the French Section of the Workers’ International (SFIO) . Some socialists separated from it ( René Viviani , Briand) in 1906. The SFIO broke all ties with the radicals, who were in power from October 1906 to July 1909 with Clemenceau . This one, in 1907, controls by the force the strikes of civil servants and the wine agitation in the South. The socialist opposition considers the social reforms insufficient (8 hour day for minors). The years 1909 to 1914 were marked by ministerial instability.

Externally, the period was dominated by the rise of bellicose nationalism and the fear of a Pan-German threat (→ William II ), revealed by the two Moroccan crises (Tangier, 1905; Agadir , 1911). France also took the opportunity to settle in Morocco and thus expand its empire in North Africa.

Economically, on the eve of 1914, France became one of the four world powers. It is at the forefront for the automotive and aeronautical industries. However, it remains a country of agriculture, an area in which, however, the modernization of practices and structures has barely begun. The currency is solid. But demographic weakness hinders development and, in the social field, the rural exodus continues to increase the urban proletariat, whose existence is still marked by insecurity, difficult working conditions, low wages, housing insufficient, even unhealthy.

The country then experienced what nostalgics (→ Proust , In Search of Lost Time ) would retrospectively call the “Belle Époque”. The triumph of the Universal Exhibition of 1900, after that of 1889, in Paris, bears witness to this. The “modern style” appears in the squares or in certain bourgeois houses. In fact, this modernism only prevails in certain “artist” circles.

Nor is the public looking for literary novelty. Zola ‘s naturalism still captures the general public, although Huysmans has long announced his passing. Symbolism is in vogue, and Verlaine and Mallarmé inspire new generations of writers. In music, Debussy triggered a resounding scandal with Pelléas et Mélisande (1902). At the theater, Sarah Bernhardt wins all the votes in Edmond Rostand ‘s Aiglon. But the public especially appreciated the easy theater of the boulevards, vaudevilles or historical dramas, while the press and popular literature experienced an unprecedented boom (serial novels by Michel Zévaco and Paul Féval . In painting, Picasso initiated an aesthetic revolution with his Demoiselles d ‘Avignon (1907) which paved the way for Cubism , while Fauvism distinguished itself with Matisse .

    22.1. THE FIRST WORLD WAR: 1914-1918
    Battle of Verdun

Germany declares war on France on August 3. The German advance once stopped by Joffre and Gallieni on the Marne (September 5-10, 1914), the opposing armies got bogged down in trench warfare.

The French repel the Germans at Verdun (→ Battle of Verdun , 1916) and launch the Chemin des Dames Offensive (1917). The cost in human lives of these battles provokes a vast movement of mutinies, directed not against the war, but against the way in which it is fought.

In 1917, the entry into the war of the United States compensated for the defection of revolutionary Russia. Appointed Generalissimo of the Allied armies, Foch regained the initiative in Champagne in July 1918 (→ Battles of Champagne ), while Franchet d’Espèrey attacked in the Balkans in September.

Georges Clemenceau and the Allies

On November 11, 1918 , Germany signed the armistice. The Treaty of Versailles (June 28, 1919) returned Alsace-Lorraine to France; but immediately the problem posed by the reparations owed by the Germans proved insoluble.

The toll of the war is catastrophic: nearly 10% of the active population has disappeared and nearly 20% of it is handicapped, more than 50,000 km of roads are destroyed, more than 300,000 homes are demolished. , 3 million hectares of land are unusable for cultivation for several years. During the post-war period, the economic crisis was endemic (inflation, growing indebtedness of the public treasury). From 1919, monster strikes broke out everywhere (steel, textiles, railways); almost everywhere they end in failure.

For more, see the article World War I.

22.2. POST-WAR: 1919-1930
Aristide Briand, Louis Loucheur and Paul Painleve

It’s time for cultural release, after the weight of the conflict. These were the “Roaring Twenties”, marked by the enthusiasm for jazz and exceptional artistic and literary creativity, before the expression of a certain return to order, which did not prevent the increasingly marked political commitment of many artists (→ Fernand Léger ) and writers (→ Gide , Malraux ).

→ dadaism , surrealism [fine arts] , surrealism [literature] .

The 1919 elections saw the success of right-wing groups (Chambre bleu horizon). The socialists and the communists separate after the Congress of Tours (1920). The National Bloc is supported by financial circles. The economic recovery is relatively rapid: oil and electricity come to the forefront of the expansion; but this does not affect agriculture, commerce, or industry as a whole.

In the 1924 elections, the Cartel des gauches triumphed and forced the President of the Republic, Millerand , to resign , accused of having wanted to exert too personal a political influence. Édouard Herriot constitutes a homogeneous radical ministry, which comes up against considerable financial difficulties (the Money Wall). In 1926, a national unity cabinet ( Poincaré ) brought together all the parties, excluding the Communists and the Socialists, and stabilized the franc (1928).

In foreign policy, the victors are disunited. France obtains only a simple promise of British and American assistance in the event of a German attack. The United States refuses to be involved in continental affairs. In France, the issue of reparations first comes to the fore. Relations with Germany are only an alternation of compromises (conferences of London [1921], Cannes [1922]) and trials of strength (occupation of the Ruhr , 1923). But, from 1924, Aristide Briand led a policy of conciliation with Germany: Locarno agreements (October 1925), Briand-Kellogg pact (August 1928), Young plan(new German repayment relief [1929] succeeding the Dawes Plan ), project of the United States of Europe.

22.3. FROM CRISIS TO WAR: 1930-1939
The world crisis that broke out in 1929 (→ 1929 crisis ) had repercussions in France from 1931 (agricultural slump, industrial collapse, paralysis of trade, increase in unemployment). In the 1932 elections, the right yielded the majority to the radicals, the socialists and their allies. But ministerial instability manifested the divisions of the left, while financial and political scandals broke out (→ Stavisky affair , 1933-1934).

A double opposition threatened the regime: on the left the Communists, on the right the movements of Doriot , Action Française , the Croix-de-Feu of Colonel de La Rocque . It culminated in the Parisian riot of February 6, 1934 , to which the first common demonstrations of socialists and communists since 1920 (February 9) responded. An attempt at constitutional revision failed under Doumergue ‘s Ministry of National Union (February-November 1934). From June 1935 to January 1936, Pierre Laval practiced an unpopular policy of deflation.

Popular Front demonstration, 1936

A coalition of the left (radicals, socialists and communists) leads to the victory of the Popular Front (elections of May 1936), which comes to reinforce a formidable movement of strikes with factory occupations. The Matignon agreements (June 7, 1936) between the CGT and the General Confederation of French Employers, which brought paid holidays and a 40-hour week, marked the end of the movement. From June 1936 to June 1937, Léon Blum , leader of the SFIO, can carry out important social achievements. But political and economic disagreements quickly appeared between the partners of the Popular Front. In addition, the left is divided following the policy of non-intervention in Spain during the civil war. Léon Blum resigned in June 1937. He tried in vain, in March-April 1938, to reconstitute the Popular Front. He was replaced by Édouard Daladier , who gave priority to financial matters, resorting to decree-laws, which Paul Reynaud could use to pursue a liberal financial policy.

For more, see the Popular Front article .

Abroad, after the advent of Hitler in Germany (1933), France was looking for alliances. Laval signed the Rome Accords with Mussolini (1935), but after the Ethiopia affair (1935-1936) and France’s support for sanctions against Italy, the Duce turned to Hitler. The mutual assistance treaty signed by Laval with the Soviets in May 1935 provoked the denunciation of the Locarno agreements by Hitler, who, in March 1936, reoccupied the Rhineland militarily. In March 1938, it was the Anschluss . In September, the Daladier government accepts the cession of the Sudetenland to Germany to the detriment of its ally Czechoslovakia (→ Munich agreements). In March 1939, Hitler annexed all of Bohemia-Moravia, signed the Pact of Steel with Mussolini (May), then, on September 1 , invaded Poland. On September 3, England and France finally declare war on Germany.

  1. THE SECOND WORLD WAR (1939-1945)
    Message from Marshal Pétain, June 17, 1940

Charles de Gaulle, June 22, 1940
France cannot effectively support Poland invaded by the Germans; she settles in the “phony war” (September 1939-May 1940) while organizing a campaign in Norway. Badly prepared for a war of movement, the French army, in May 1940, during the German offensive in the Netherlands, in Belgium, then on the Meuse, was quickly overwhelmed by an army solidly supported by the air force and the mobile armored divisions. Marshal Pétain , who replaced Reynaud (March–June 1940) as head of government, asked for the armistice ( June 22, 1940), while in London General Charles de Gaulle called on the nation to resist (→ appeal of the June 18 ).

France under Vichy

Philippe Petain
The Germans annexed Alsace-Lorraine, militarily occupied two thirds of the territory and sent 2 million French prisoners to Germany. Only the fleet and the colonies remain free. The Chambers, meeting in Vichy in the National Assembly, were suspended after having entrusted all powers (July 10) to Marshal Pétain , who proclaimed himself Head of State on July 12. The Vichy regime tried to establish a nationalist policy, vaguely Maurrassian, based on traditional values ​​(“work”, “family”, “country); on the social level, it backs a return to state corporatism. Under the impetus of its “dauphin” Pierre Lavaland above all right-wing extremists, but also on his own initiative, Pétain pursued a policy of collaboration with Germany, a collaboration which accelerated from 1942 (arrest and deportation of Jews, establishment of the STO , etc.). That year, the Allied landings in North Africa led to the occupation of all of France by German troops (November 1942).

To learn more, see the article on collaboration .

Normandy landings, June 6, 1944

An effective Resistance is organized, which will count many martyrs; little by little, General de Gaulle brought together the scattered forces in the National Council of the Resistance (CNR) (May 1943), while volunteers, with Leclerc , regrouped within the Free French Forces and, with the army d’Afrique (→ Juin , de Lattre de Tassigny ), played an important role in the battles of the Liberation .

Charles de Gaulle, May 8, 1945

Recognized by the Allies, a French National Liberation Committee (CFLN) was set up in June 1943 in Algiers, chaired from October by General de Gaulle alone. On June 3, 1944, the CFLN became the Provisional Government of the French Republic (GPRF) and settled in Paris, which was liberated on August 25, 1944. French troops actively participated in the final offensive against Germany. France (absent from the Yalta and Potsdam conferences ) was present during the surrender of the Reich (May 8, 1945).

France deplores 600,000 war victims; its economic equipment is terribly affected, which aggravates its technological backwardness. A net recovery in the birth rate is only gradually affecting a demography that has been weakened for a long time. In the Colonial Empire , the war fostered the rise of nationalist movements.

For more, see the articles Charles de Gaulle , the Resistance , World War II .

  1. THE fourth REPUBLIC
    24.1. RECONSTRUCTION: 1944-1952
    After the moral order imposed by Vichy, an appetite for life seized youth and intellectual life. Sartre and existentialism symbolize this place reconquered by France, and particularly Paris, in the cultural world, even if certain writers (→ the Hussars ) reject, by aestheticism, this imposed commitment of the intellectual. François Mauriac , with his Notepad, is at the crossroads of the two attitudes.

Charles de Gaulle

Deep reforms were immediately undertaken by General de Gaulle : women’s vote, nationalizations, generalization of family allowances and social security, establishment of works councils, creation of the General Planning Commission. On October 21, 1945, the country elected a first Constituent Assembly, which confirmed General de Gaulle as Head of the Provisional Government (November 13, 1945). However, he resigned in January 1946, in disagreement with the majority including Communists, Socialists and Popular Republican Movement (MRP)[tripartism]. On May 5, 1946, voters rejected a first draft Constitution which provided for a single assembly system. A new Constituent Assembly was elected (June-November 1946), which drafted a transactional text, creating a second assembly with limited powers, the Council of the Republic; this Constitution was adopted by the country by a small majority (referendum of October 13, 1946).

RPF Poster

The elections for the first National Assembly took place on November 10, 1946, then those for the Council of the Republic on November 24 and December 8. The socialist Vincent Auriol is elected President of the Republic (January 1947). In 1947, the government encountered a double opposition: that of the Communist Party , which refused to approve military credits for Indochina and was expelled from the government in May 1947; that of the Rally of the French People (RPF), Gaullist movement (April 1947). Also, putting an end to tripartism, he attempted to widen the parliamentary majority on his right: it was the time (1947-1952) of the “third force” (socialists, MRP, radicals and moderates). In the trade union movement, major strikes led to the splitting of the CGT into two confederations (creation of the CGT-FO in April 1948). In 1950, the Socialists in turn left the government, and the 1951 elections saw the success of the RPF and the Communists, whose scope was limited by an electoral system (law of affiliations ) tailor-made for the third force.

France, from 1945 to 1951 – in particular thanks to the Marshall Plan from 1948 – lived with the help of the United States, which enabled it to finance its essential imports and to reinforce its first plan of modernization and development. equipment (Monnet plan).

Diên Biên Phu, March 26, 1954, Hanoi

The Pinay ministry (March 6-December 23, 1952), served by a continuous expansion of production, led the fight against inflation. The end of 1953 saw the difficult election of René Coty as President of the Republic. In 1954, while political unrest grew in Tunisia and Morocco, the deterioration of the situation in Indochina (→ Battle of Diên Biên Phu , May 7) resulted in the Geneva Accords (→ Mendès France ), in July, which end the Indochina War . The Algerian insurrection broke out on November 1 , 1954.

Guy Mollet

In December 1955, the Assembly was dissolved. Guy Mollet , one of the leaders of the Republican Front (essentially radicals and socialists), formed the government (1956-1957). Morocco and Tunisia gained independence in 1956, while the Defferre framework law granted considerable autonomy to Madagascar and the territories of black Africa. But, in Algeria, the conflict worsens (→ Algerian War ). To protect Franco-British interests in Egypt, a military expedition was sent to Suez (October-December 1956). This turns out to be a diplomatic failure, the United States and the USSR having intervened. After a period of monetary stability (1953-1955), inflation resumed (1955-1959). In 1957, theEuropean Economic Community (EEC) is created.

The events in Algeria (→ crisis of May 13, 1958 ) lead to the return of General de Gaulle. As of September 28, a new Constitution (→ French Constitution of 1958 ), which increases the powers of the President of the Republic, is ratified by referendum.

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