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The French loss in the Franco-Russian War resulted in the Second French Empire being dismantled, social upheaval, the brief establishment of the Paris Commune, and the loss of Alsace-Lorraine. The new government considered re-establishing the monarchy, but the talks were stalled and the new Republican government became the ruling government of France.
Main Article: Third French Republic
The defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian led to the overthrow of Napoleon III and the Second French Empire. The new provisional government held national elections, during which conservatives led by Adolphe Thiers came to power. Theirs negotiated an end to the war, and attempted to pass numerous financial laws. Resentment against the laws and his government resulted in the attempted establishment of the new socialist government of the Paris Commune by Communards, which would be violently suppressed by Thiers. The violent response led to the destruction of the fledgeling labor movement, which would make a comeback in the early 1920s.
France would create a second colonial empire in parts of Africa and Asia, and made nations of Central America and South America heavily dependent on the French through investments and loans. The establishment of the French-controlled Panama Canal made France's rival Britain realize the importance of establishing influence in the New World. The competition for economic control of the New World would lead to the relationship between the two nations falling apart. Britain would ally itself with Germany, and France would form an alliance with Austria-Hungary and the Russian Empire.
After several diplomatic crises, the escalation of conflict in the Balkans resulted in the First World War breaking out in 1913. France's attempt at striking through Belgium to quickly knock out Germany failed, and for the next four years fought a defensive struggle as British and German soldiers pushed into France. After years of bloody trench warfare and the death of nearly two million French soldiers, Paris fell and the French were forced to surrender in 1917.
Devoirism Takes Hold
Main Article: Third French EmpireFrance was soundly defeated in World War I by the United Kingdom and Germany. The humiliation of seeing the German flag hoisted above Paris would haunt the French during the next decades. Northern France had been utterly destroyed by the fierce fighting of the Western Front. War reparations sent the new French Republic into a spiraling depression. The Spanish Flu wrapped devastated France, with thousands becoming victims. Old issues arose as well, such as workers' rights and the deplorable living conditions most the lower classes endured, which led to the resurgence of Communards. "The Lost Generation" was angered at economic stagnation and the current administration's failed handling of war.This anger resulted in Philippe Pétain, a brilliant general during the war, to propose a new form of government: Devoirism, named for the French word for duty, devoir. Petain proposed a new form of centralized, authoritarian government, led by a strong leader, who would lead the masses to serve the state and crush the enemies of the state to the best of their ability. Petain would be killed by the Spanish Flu, resulting in a scramble for power between his two major followers, Charles de Gaulle and Pierre Laval. De Gaulle would achieve victory and become the new head of the Devorist National Party.
The Party swelled in size and thousands joined across the country. In 1922, de Gaulle made his move to seize power. His large paramilitary forces, previously used to intimidate and silence opponents, captured strategic points across the country. Charles de Gaulle and over 30,000 French citizens marched on Paris to take power. The republican government initially planned for a siege of the city, but ultimately, faced with the possibility of bloodshed, the Prime Minister would resign and de Gaulle would take power. The March on Paris would set an example for other devoirist parties, leading to other seizures of power such as the March on Rome only two years later.
Occupation and Rebuilding
Following the defeat of the Third French Empire, France was placed under the occupation by the United Kingdom and the United States. In 1950 these zones were united and became the Fourth Republic of France, with free, democratic elections. The first French president elected was Robert Schuman, who had opposed totalitarian rule but silenced himself before he was arrested as an opponent to the regime and imprisoned. Schuman led several reforms to the French government and society that were instrumental rebuilding France and strengthening their relations.