Home / Tag Archives: Paris

Tag Archives: Paris

The French Revolution and Napoleon

french revolution

The year is 1789; the place, Versailles, France. Several hundred delegates representing the people of France sit sullenly in the palace hall. When an officer of the King orders them to leave the hall and return to their proper meeting place, one delegate rises to his full height and thunders, “Tell your master that we are here by the will of the people, and that only bayonets can drive us forth” A meeting of representatives of the French people? Defiance to the commands of the powerful king of France? In view of what you have read earlier about royal authority in France, all this sounds strange; but it actually happened in one of the opening scenes of the French Revolution. The French Revolution swept the King of France from his throne and abolished the special privileges of the French nobles and clergy. It also spread ideas of liberty and equality over most of Europe and even overseas. Both Americans and Frenchmen sought liberty and both took up arms to win it, but conditions in America and in France were quite different. (1) The English colonists in America were pioneers in a vast new land. They had brought with them the traditions of English liberty and because they were separated by great distances from their home government, they had grown used to handling their own affairs. France, on the other hand, was an old monarchy. It had a population in 1789 of 25 million people who lived in an area that was smaller than the present state of Texas. These people were divided into fixed classes. The great mass of people had few rights and no voice in government. Liberty to them was a new experience. (2) To the east and south of France were powerful nations, in which people suffered …

Read More »

The Revival of Town Life and the Growth of Learning

middle ages

Pierre watched the merchant caravan clatter down the narrow dirt road that led through the manor. Pack mules threaded their way to avoid the deep puddles, while the horses strained as they pulled the creaking two wheeled carts. Pierre envied the merchants as well as the sturdy bowmen who guarded the caravan. During his seventeen years Pierre had never been more than a few miles from the manor where he had been born a serf. He was not free to move around as were these merchants who were city folk. Was it true, as Pierre had heard, that a serf who escaped to a town or city and lived there for a year and a day was forever free? He wondered. The merchant caravan disappeared around the bend in the road. Should Pierre follow it? To stay on the manor meant a serf’s life — a life of back-breaking toil. That night after dark, his mind made up, Pierre slipped unseen across the fields and onto a narrow  path that led over the surrounding hills. For two nights he walked as rapidly as he could, sleeping fitfully in deep thickets during the daylight hours. Soon after sunrise on the second morning the forest trail led to a wider road, an hour’s journey out of the city of Lacourt. Pierre helped to free an oxcart bogged down in the mire of the roadside ditch and then trudged toward Lacourt in the company of the grateful driver. The young serf’s eyes grew wide with wonder at the unfamiliar sights as he approached the outskirts of the city. Completely encircling it was a wall of stone four times the height of a man. At one point the wall was pierced by a gateway, its great oaken doors swung back. Through the opening Pierre could …

Read More »

Democratic but Divided 1926-1939

fascist

UNLIKE Britain, France was not a highly industrialized country; its economy was fairly evenly divided between industry and farming. For this reason, the depression came to France later than it did to any of the democracies and its effect was less severe, but in no other democracy did communists and fascists play so large a part. For a time there was real danger that the French republic would be overthrown by the fascists and there were riots in the streets. One reason the fascists were so dangerous was that the French people were sharply divided in their political opinions. There were many parties of many political shades. The largest and most important was the Radical Socialist party, which was neither radical nor socialist. The name was something that had been left over from the past. It was a middle-of-the-road party, supported by the middle class and the farmers. To the left of the Radical Socialists were the Socialists, who had considerable strength and the Communists. On the extreme right were the anti-republic parties and the fascists. The most powerful of these was the Croix de Feu, the Cross of Fire. Made up mainly of war veterans, it was led by Colonel Francois de la Rocque and it won the support of a number of industrialists and financiers. Less strong, though still troublesome, were Action Francaise, Camelots du Roi, Solidarité Francaise‚ Jeunesse Patriote and the Cagoulards. Because of the number of parties, it was almost impossible for any one party to win a majority and control the government. France was governed by coalitions, or combinations, of two or more parties, which supported the premier, the head of the government. But disagreements often arose, and the parties were quick to withdraw their support of the premier. Whenever that happened, a new coalition …

Read More »

The Victors Reconstruct Europe 1918 – 1919

Versailles

IN THE closing weeks of the war, the Austro-Hungarian Empire came apart. Its subject peoples proclaimed their independence, through “national councils” set up in Paris and London. On November 12, 1918, the last of the Hapsburg emperors, Charles I, abdicated and the next day Austria became a republic. Hungary became a republic a week later. Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia also came into existence and Rumania helped itself to the slice of Hapsburg territory called Transylvania. Before any peace conference could meet, the empire’s former subjects had redrawn the map to suit themselves and the Allies formally recognized the new nations. THE KAISER ABDICATES Unlike its ally, the German Empire held firm almost to the end. Earlier in the war, the liberals, democrats and socialists in the Reichstag, Germany’s legislative body, had put off their demands for the sake of national unity. Power had become concentrated in the hands of the generals, led by General Ludendorff. On September 29, 1918, Ludendorff told the Kaiser that Germany must sue for peace. Furthermore, he urged the immediate formation of a new government along democratic lines, based on the important parties in the Reichstag. The kaiser was astonished, but he soon realized that the army must be in a desperate situation for Ludendorff to suggest such a step. He knew, too, that the proud military aristocrats who commanded the army could not bring themselves to surrender; the task must be left to civilians. Sadly the kaiser gave his consent and Prince Max of Baden, a liberal nobleman, agreed to head a cabinet that included the socialists. By October it had put through a number of reforms, but the socialists were not satisfied. They threatened to quit the government unless the kaiser abdicated. Meanwhile, as word spread of the disastrous military situation, the German people began …

Read More »

Problems of a Changing World 1870-1914

trade unions

WHILE INDUSTRY was transforming the United States, the same thing was happening in Western Europe. The change was most noticeable in Germany, because Germany was not unified until 1870, it started to become industrial much later than Great Britain and France, but it soon began to catch up with its neighbours. Within a few decades it was producing more than they were of several key commodities, including the most important one of all, steel. Like the American government, the German government imposed tariffs on foreign manufactures and encouraged its national industry in other ways. The results were much the same as in the United States. Railways spread across the country in an ever denser network of tracks, connecting farmlands with cities, mines with factories and factories with seaports. New industrial cities came into being, especially in the coal-rich Ruhr Valley, next to the iron-rich province of Lorraine which Germany had seized from France in the Franco-Prussian War. Old cities doubled and tripled in size as country people flocked into them to man factory machines, shop counters and office desks. On both sides of the Atlantic, smoke billowed from factory chimneys, rows of new houses went up in the cities and freight trains carried industrial products off to market and to seaports, for shipments overseas. Such signs of industry’s growth could be seen throughout the industrial West. Elsewhere, in the less developed parts of the world, they were not so evident — but their effects were felt just the same. For, as industry expanded in Western Europe and the United States, it reached further and further afield in quest of supplies for its factories and customers for its products. In Asia, Africa, Latin America and other non-industrial regions, armies of native workers came to depend for their livelihood on the money …

Read More »

Another Napoleon 1848-1906

Louis-Napoleon

IN DECEMBER of 1848, the French elected Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte as president of the Second French Republic. What he stood for was not very clear, but to most Frenchmen that did not seem important. He was the nephew of the great Napoleon and the very sound of his name stirred them like a battle-cry. Since the defeat of the first Napoleon in 1815, there had been little in French politics to capture the imagination. As the years passed, the French looked back on the Napoleonic era as the time of their greatest glory. The writer Victor Hugo wrote poems about Napoleon. The Arch of Triumph, built in Paris in honour of Napoleon’s many victories, was completed in 1836. In 1840, Napoleon’s body was brought from his prison island, Saint Helena and buried in Paris on a bank of the Seine River. Pictures of Napoleon, usually showing him visiting the wounded or lying on his deathbed, could be found in the cottages of most peasants. Although it was not so, the peasants liked to think that it was Napoleon who had given them free ownership of their land. Louis-Napoleon knew the magic of his name and intended to make the most of it. No one ever saw him angry or excited. He was not much to look at, but he had a strange sort of charm. An Englishman who had just met him for the first time wrote, “When Prince Louis-Napoleon held out his hand and I looked into his face, I felt almost tempted to put him down as an Opium eater. Ten minutes afterwards I felt convinced . . . that he himself was the drug and that everyone with whom he came in contact was bound to yield to its influence.” The new president traveled about France, meeting the …

Read More »

The Revolution of 1848; 1830-1848

austria

LOUIS PHILIPPE always spoke of himself humbly as the “citizen king.” Although he was dignified, friendly and tried to do things that would make him popular, his government could not satisfy the needs of the people. The reason was that only one out of every thirty Frenchmen had the right to vote. The Chamber of Deputies represented only the nobles and the rich upper crust of the middle class and often it did not even debate questions that were of importance to the great majority of the people. Many Frenchmen did not like the new king. The republicans were opposed to having any king at all. The “liberals” — people of the middle class who favoured a constitutional monarchy thought his government was too conservative and did not allow enough freedom. As the years passed, more and more Frenchmen, including the workers in the cities, turned against him because he refused to support their demand for the right to vote. The liberals were forbidden to hold meetings at which they could present their demands. To get around this, they decided to follow the British system of holding political banquets. At the first of these, held in Paris in the summer of 1847, they demanded that the election laws be changed to include most of the middle classes. They also wanted freedom of trade and of the press. The banquet was so successful that similar gatherings were held in almost every town in the nation. Then the liberals announced that a great banquet, with a parade and demonstrations in the streets, would be held in Paris on the night of February 22, 1848. When the government refused to allow it, the angry people of Paris gathered in the streets. They milled about, not knowing what to do, for no plans had …

Read More »

Democracy in France 1815-1830

AFTER THE fall of Napoleon, Louis XVIII came to the throne of France. Although his powers were limited, by following a middle-of-the-road policy he was able to rule peacefully until his death in 1824. His brother, Charles X, then became king and soon began using his influence to undo as much of the French Revolution as possible. He was able to have laws passed which required the government to pay large sums of money every year to the nobles whose land had been taken from them during the revolution. The Catholic Church was strengthened and once again priests began teaching in public schools. Republicans complained and newspapers took a strong stand against the king’s program. During a parade of the National Guard, which was known as the “army of the people,” there were demonstrations against the king. Charles struck back by disbanding the National Guard and by taking away freedom of the press. In March of 1850, the Chamber of Deputies voted that it had no confidence in the government and the king was forced to call new elections. So many opponents of the king were elected to the Chamber of Deputies that his program was in danger. Charles still had a weapon to use against his enemies — the power to issue royal decrees that had the force of law in cases of emergency. On July 26, 1830, he used that weapon to dismiss the recently elected Chamber before it had time to meet. Another decree took away freedom of the press. A third took away the voting rights of most middle-class voters and a fourth decree called for a new election on the basis of the changed voting rights. Had this election taken place, Charles would have won an easy victory. Instead, Paris rose up in revolt. Students …

Read More »

Emperor of the French 1804 -1815

waterloo

On December 2, 1804, in a ceremony of great pomp and splendour at the cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Napoleon I, Emperor of the French. Pope Pius VII was there. He had come from Rome to offer his blessing and to place the crown on the head of the new emperor but Napoleon did not do what was expected of him. Instead of kneeling, he took the crown from the Pope’s hands and put it on himself. He also placed a crown on the head of his wife, Josephine. Only twelve years had passed since the French had risen in revolt against their king. Now, by popular vote, they had placed Napoleon on the throne and approved a new constitution giving him almost unlimited power. People in other lands wondered if the French were turning their back on the revolution, but the French did not think so. They looked upon Napoleon as the man who had made laws and treaties to protect most of the benefits which they had won during the revolution. Yet the French had changed. They no longer spoke of liberty. They were willing to give up some of their freedom in order to enjoy other things that now seemed just as important and men who had once been great champions of liberty could do little about it. Among them was Lafayette, who had returned to France after several years in Austrian prisons. Not wishing to support a government under which freedom did not exist, he refused to accept any public office and lived the life of a gentleman farmer. Most Frenchmen simply felt that a practical form of government was more important than liberty. They had discovered some frightening things about liberty during the Revolution — too much of it could …

Read More »

The Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte 1796-1802

napoleon

In March of 1796, a new commander named Napoleon Bonaparte was placed in charge of the French army on the Italian front. The soldiers and officers were amazed when they first saw him. He was short, thin, pale, only twenty-seven years old and spoke French with an Italian accent. Napoleon was not an unknown. He had first come to public attention as the young artillery officer who drove the British fleet from the harbour at Toulon. Later, as a brigadier general, he had successfully defended the Convention from an uprising in Paris. What most people did not know was that he had been a rebel most of his life. He had been born on the island of Corsica, a rebel stronghold, where fighting for independence from French rule was considered the duty of patriots. His father had been a rebel leader and the boy Napoleon had dreamed of the day when he, too, would lead a Corsican rebellion against the French. He had kept that dream alive during his years in French military school and even after he had become an officer in the French army. During one of his visits to the island, while on leave, he had actually tried to stir up a rebellion in Corsica. The attempt failed and that put an end to his boyhood dream, but he still remained a rebel at heart. Napoleon’s new army was a small one of only 30,000 troops and most of them were suffering for want of food and clothing. This was the army with which he was expected to fight the Austrian troops in Northern Italy. According to French war plans against Austria, the Italian campaign was supposed to keep enemy troops busy on the southern front while the main attacks were launched by two large French armies …

Read More »
Translate »