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The Balance of Power in Europe, 1870


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The Great Powers in 1871: France


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The defeat of France in the war gave Germany a strategic advantage, but the people of the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, which had been ceded to Germany, identified with France. As a result, France could be expected to be always on the side against Germany in the event of any international alignment of powers. During the course of the war, Emperor Napoleon III was captured and imprisoned, and he soon died. The French government was headed by Adolphe Thiers, a moderate liberal. There was an insurrection in Algeria. In March 1871 a revolt in Paris led to the establishment of the Paris commune. In 1875 France effectively became a Republic with the adoption of new constitutional laws, which confirmed France as a democratic republic. This established the Third Republic. In May 1877 the President of the Republic, Marshal Macmahon, tried to impose his own Prime Minister, but this was opposed by the chamber of Deputies, and Macmahon was forced to resign. Hence, the power of the President was diminished. One effect of this was to create executively weak governments, but there were some notable achievements nonetheless. Jules Ferry was able to give the French educational system a secular, non-religious and republican foundation. Théophile Delcassé, who was foreign minister between 1898 and 1905, developed the Anglo/French Entente Cordiale. George Clemenceau gave France effective leadership during the last years of the First World War. France recovered from the 1870 war. Industrialisation was less complete than in Germany; agriculture still employed a large proportion of labour; population expansion was slower than the other great powers. 68% of the population lived on the land in 1876 and 56% in 1911, whereas in Germany by c1900 28% of the population was rural. France's recovery from the 1870 war was rapid, and in 1874 France paid off the indemnity to Germany six months in advance. In 1878 the International Exhibition was held in Paris. France regained her position as a world power. The army was reorganised and a powerful navy constructed. France heavily invested capital abroad, especially in Russia. Although France was too weak to fight a war with Germany independently, the French people retained the idea of avranche (revenge) for 1870. It was a part of French national consciousness to hope for a war that would reverse the terms of the Treaty of Frankfurt. The expansion of the French empire into Africa brought her into conflict with Britain. After 1870 the French adopted a liberal alliance with Britain. But in the 1880s Anglo-French colonial rivalries put an end to this. An alliance with Russia was concluded during the period 1892-94 that seemed hostile to Britain, but in the event proved to be the foundation of the coalition that fought against Germany in the First World War.
Contents of
The Balance of Power in Europe, 1870

1 The Franco-Prussian War, 1870-71
2 The Great Powers in 1871: Germany
3 The Great Powers in 1871: France
4 The Great Powers in 1871: Great Britain
5 The Great Powers in 1871: Austria-Hungary
6 The Great Powers in 1871: Russia
7 The Great Powers in 1871: The Ottoman Empire
8 The Lesser Powers in 1871:Italy, the doctrine of Papal infalibility
9 The Lesser Powers in 1871:Spain
10 The Lesser Powers in 1871:Other small nation states
11 Balance of power between the classes: the rise of the State

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