This document was written by Stephen Tonge. I am most grateful to have his kind permission to include it on the web site.
1. The Paris Commune
2. The Establishment of the Third Republic
3. The Constitution
4. The Boulanger Affair
5. The Panama Scandal
6. The Dreyfus Affair
7. Church-State relations
9. La Belle époque
10. French Foreign Policy
Republics in French History
First Republic (French Revolution) 1792-1804
Second Republic 1848-1852
Third Republic 1870-1940
Fourth Republic 1946-1958
Fifth Republic 1958-
France had a long history of political turmoil(the chaos of the politics in the country). Prior to 1870 there had been the French Revolution and the Terror. The rule of Napoleon Bonaparte (1799-1815) had brought great victories and eventual defeat for France. There had been revolutions in 1830 and 1848 that had removed Charles X and Louis Philippe respectively.
France during the Third Republic was politically very unstable. This instability was caused by rivalry between monarchists and republicans.
There were a number of scandals that threatened the existence of the Republic but it survived longer than any other regime since 1789. It was also a period of imperial expansion and scientific and artistic achievement.
1. The Paris Commune
Commune = Town or local Council
In September 1870 the Third Republic ( The French Third Republic (French: La Troisième République, sometimes written as La IIIe République) governed France from 1870, when the Second French Empire collapsed, to 1940, when France's defeat by Nazi Germany led to the Vichy France government. )was proclaimed after the defeat of Napoleon III(Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (20 April 1808 – 9 January 1873) was the first President of the French Second Republic and, as Napoleon III, the Emperor of the Second French Empire. He was the nephew and heir of Napoleon I.) at Sedan. The new government continued resistance to the Germans who then laid siege to Paris. To defend Paris, a National Guard was raised which soon numbered 360,000 men. The siege of Paris was harsh with food shortages and over 40,000 people died.
In February 1871, France surrendered and the Prussians paraded through Paris on March 1. The French government was established at Versailles( The Palace of Versailles, or simply Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France. In French, it is known as the Château de Versailles. ) not at Paris. Parisians were angered by this and they opposed the policies of the government, headed by Adolphe Thiers(Marie Joseph Louis Adolphe Thiers was a French politician and historian. He was a leading historian of the French Revolution.) They felt it was too conservative, too royalist, and too ready to accept a humiliating peace with Prussia.
The National Government at Versailles now attempted to restore order within Paris. In March regular troops were sent into Paris to seize the cannon of the National Guard. Many of the troops deserted and the officers were imprisoned. Paris was now in revolt
The Paris Commune was elected on 28 March, with its seat at the Hôtel de Ville. Its symbol was the red flag. The Communards' policies included economic reforms and reform of the church. It contained many shades of political opinion— Anarchists, Socialists, Jacobins and Communists.
A civil war was now fought between the Commune and the troops of the Versailles government. The Second Siege of Paris began. The Commune was suppressed by government troops led byMarshal McMahon during the last week of May 1871. This became known as the 'Semaine Sanglante' (the Bloody Week). Hostages were shot on both sides including the Archbishop of Paris.
Bismarck allowed French prisoners of war to pass through German lines and attack Paris About 25,000 Communards were killed, and after a further 35,000 arrests, many were deported to the penal colony New Caledonia in the Pacific. All remaining communard