Analyze the weakness of the Third Republic of France in the period, 1875-1914.
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Analyze the weakness of the Third Republic of France in the period, 1875-1914. In the period, 1875-1914, the French Third Republic suffered from a number of crises, scandals and difficulties. The regime was hardly strong. Nevertheless, it survived. 1. Political instability was a major weakness of the Third Republic. There were frequent changes of government owing to the existence of different political groups. Governments were often coalitions of a number of parties and tended to break up if parties of the coalition fell out over certain issues. The existence of different groups or factions had been a feature of the political history of France ever since 1789. There were 3 major divisions: the monarchists(legitimists and Orleanists) and Bonapartists, the republicans(moderates and radicals), and liberals, socialists of different hues- moderate to radical. There were supporters of different regimes and ideologies-absolutism and absolute monarchy, empire; constitutionalism and constitutional monarchy; republicanism and republic; socialism. From 1875 to 1914, the republicans and the republic had to face the challenges from the Right(monarchists and Bonapartists)
There was another threat from the Right---the Boulanger Affair of 1889. Boulanger was French general who aimed at dictatorship. He captured popular support by advocating a strong foreign policy. He was elected to the Chamber of Deputies. In the end, he failed to start a coup to seize power because of his lack of courage and his inability to have a political programme that satisfied different political groups. The political division of France was most vividly shown in the Dreyfus Affair which clearly divided France into 2 halves. Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army, was charged with high treason for giving military information to Germany. Generally speaking, in the Dreyfus Case, the left wing parties(Radicals, Republicans and Socialists) supported Dreyfus's innocence. But the right wing groups(the Church, the army, monarchists) insisted on his guiltiness. In the end, Dreyfus was found to be innocent. So this result discredited the right wing parties, the clericals and the army. The republicans and socialists got more support.
The reasons for slow economic growth were: --the lack of resources e.g. coal. This handicapped heavy industries. --the French were too individualistic to adopt machines and capitalism. The French disliked anything large scale. --France specialized in luxury goods. --People engaged in enterprise on family basis. They prepared family dynasties. They did not like competition from within or without the country. Much of the French capital were ,thus channelled into foreign loans. 4. International position of France was weakened and France was isolated internationally. This was due to the defeat by Prussia in 1871 and the efforts of Bismarck to isolate France after 1870, and the unpopularity of the republican form of government. However, the situation changed in the 1890's. As the aggressiveness of Germany scared the other powers into looking allies, France, the enemy of Germany, was sought after. In 1893, France had an alliance with Russia. Conclusion In the political, economic and international arena, France was weak. But it survived because the republican form of government was accepted by the French as shown by the failure of the monarchists and Boulanger. The efforts of the politicians to obtain popular support also accounted for the survival of the republic.
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