Victorian Era in France History

The Victorian era (1837 1901) saw several political upheavals in France while Britain enjoyed a peaceful and stable government. By 1830, Louis Philippe of Orleans had become the king of France with the July revolution. This was the concept of popular sovereignty and he ruled for the next 18 years.

The Second Republic

The concept of popular sovereignty and king Louis Philippe gradually fell into disfavour with the French public. The king had outlawed all political gathering in 1830. The liberals found an alternative in private fund raising banquets. These became much popular and provided a platform for political discussion. These banquets were also outlawed when they became too vocal. The liberals protested this act.

The protests of the liberals soon gathered strength and it culminated in the February revolution. In February 1848, the monarchy was overthrown. The liberals set up a provisional government which marked the establishment of the second French Republic.

One of the most important steps that this government took was granting the universal male suffrage which vastly increased its vote bank. It enshrined the right to work in its constitution. To tackle the problem of unemployment national workshops were set up all over Paris. It engaged laborers for such work as the construction of roads, planting of trees etc.

The national workshops became hugely popular. People from all over France began to migrate to Paris in search of work. However, paying the wages soon became a problem. The government levied additional taxes mostly on land. This alienated the gentry while a large section of rural France simply refused to pay. The new government was standing on the brink of financial disaster.

When the provisional government was facing both political and financial threat, the conservatives formed their party of order. They were the majority in the government. They decided to close the national workshops. The labour class protested and violence broke out. This is known as the June days uprising.

The Second Empire

The government faced an election for the President in December 1848. the people elected Louis Napoleon Bonaparte III by an overwhelming majority. He soon seized absolute power and declared himself emperor in December 1851.

The wave of industrialization reached France by this time. The French intelligentsia emerged from the grandes ecoles which were institutes outside the broad frame of universities. Social infrastructure and transport were modernized while large industries were set up. However, France was soon outdistanced by Germany which was making great strides under the leadership of Bismarck.

The Third Republic

The defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian era and the capture of the emperor by the Prussians ushered in another change in the French political scene. As Paris was captured, a provisional government was set up which signed the treaty to conclude the war. This government was formalized by national elections and the Third republic was established in 1871. This continued till Paris was captured by Germany in 1940.

Thus while Britain enjoyed steady economic growth during the Victorian era, France underwent several political and ideological shifts. The result was that the economic progress of the country suffered. However, France did join in with setting up colonies in North Africa and Vietnam and modern industries were set up and it became a global power.

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