France in the 20th Century Term Paper

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France in the Twentieth Century

The Second World War that took place between the years 1939 to 1945 involved the so called Axis Powers on one side, which were, namely, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Japan, and Romania and Bulgaria, and the Allied Powers, which were France, U.S., Britain, the U.S.S.R., Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, Greece, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, and Yugoslavia. (World War Two, 1939 to 1945) when the so-called 'phony war' of the year 1939 ended, and the German army started its sweep through Belgium, most of the French, as well as the British armies were at that time isolated at Dunkirk, from where they had to be rescued. This was the famous 'Dunkirk Evacuation', and soon after, millions and millions of refugees started to flee from the Nord/Pas-de-Calais towards the South, because they feared a repetition of the horrors that had been unleashed on them by the Germans during the First World War. (Second World War, 1939 to 1945)

North France now became the German launch pad for attacking Britain, and the place soon became littered with military bases, airfields, and all the other paraphernalia of an imminent war. More than a third of the entire French population was then handed over to Germany, and this was for the purpose of the payment of 'taxes' on the French as 'occupation costs', the inevitable result being that more than a third of French manpower was given to Germany for the fight. Charles de Gaulle, stated, "France has lost the battle, but France has not lost the war!" And this became the battle cry for the faithful French in London. Soon, in the North, people began attempts to sabotage the war efforts, and they started to feed information to the Allies. A secret newspaper was printed, called 'Voix du Nord', or the Voice of the North, and this became one of the more popular papers of the time in that area.

It is said that the Second World War was infinitely costlier to France than the First World War was, and the fact was that the nation had indeed lost more than a quarter of its wealth due to the damages wreaked by the War, and because of German requisitioning, and more particularly in the North. The Transport system in France had become severely damaged, as it was throughout Europe, and people could barely subsist on the meager food and other necessities that were available to them. However, after the initial hardships, the efforts that were made to recoup were very successful, and the thirty years of good growth that followed launched France into a better condition, and by the forties, France had regained its pre-War production levels. (Second World War, 1939 to 1945)

The Treaty of Versailles, of 1919, was a Peace Treaty that had been signed between the Allies and the Central Powers, to put an end to the First World War, required that Germany must take up the entire responsibility of causing the war, and that it must pay the necessary damages to the Allies. The Treaty in fact provided for the creation of the League of Nations, which was supposed to arbitrate before disputes could lead to war. However, certain French demands prevailed, much to the dismay of the Germans and the Americans, and the Treaty was more in favor of the French than for anyone else. (Treaty of Versailles)

The French third Republic, which is also known as the Third Republic, was in fact the Governing body of France, a parliamentary Republican Democracy, which existed between the Second Empire and the Fourth Republic. It was created after the empire of Napoleon III fell, during the Franco Prussian War of 1870 to 1871, between France and Prussia and her German allies. The Third Republic survived until the time of the invasion of France by the German Third Reich, or the 'nazi Germany', which existed 1933 to 1945, under the dictator Fuhrer Adolph Hitler, in the year 1940. (Third French Republic)

It must be stated here that although France was clearly a Republic, it did not much enjoy being a Third Republic, because of the fact that governments would collapse at all times, not lasting beyond a period of a few months at a time, and this was at the time when radicals, socialists, liberals, conservatives, republicans and monarchists would all fight for control. Crises in the government were also the order of the day, and when the Dreyfus Affair happened, wherein a Jewish Officer in the French Army was wrongly jailed for being a spy for Germany, the entire nation was affectde, and there was fear on all sides and form all the Parties fighting for power within France. (French Third Republic)

The Dreyfus Affair was in fact a cover-up, wherein Dreyfus, a French Officer, who was innocent, was framed by using false documents, and when higher ranking officials relaized that thy had committed a grave error in judgment, they started to make attempts to cover up. When the writer Emile Zola exposed the crime to the public, in a letter called 'J'Accuse', it caused one of the 'Greatest commotions of History'. Why this case attracted so much attention may be because of the fact that anti-Semitism was at its peak in France at the time, and another resaon may be that there were continuous attacks on Jews in the French Army at that time, and other Jews in the Army started to take up the cause of Dreyfus, after which Dreyfus was pardoned and made a knight in the Legion of Honour. (Dreyfus Affair) The Dreyfus Affair in fact played on the various insecurities and fears of all the people on all the sides, and the Third Repulic then stumbled on form other crises of a similar nature, when finally, France was liberated, and the Third Republic was discarded, and the Fourth Republic took its place. (French Third Republic)

France happened to see success when it introduced its Constitution, which in turn led to the creation of the Fifth Republic, in the year 1958. According to the French Constitution, the President of the Republic must be a person who would defend national independence, as well as continue the state. He would be elected by a team of 80,000 members, including Mayors, Municipal Councillors, Parliament Members, and General Councillors. The president in turn would be able to appoint the Prime minster and others. The first Presidential Election which was scheduled for 21 December 1958, got General de Gaulle 78.5% of the votes. According to the election system, Presidential elections thereafter took place in the years 1965, 1969, 1974, 1981, 1988, and 1995. However, when the Constitution was first formed in 1958, it was elaborated by thirty-nine members belonging to the 'Comite Consultatif Constitutionel. When the initial proposal was presented at the Place de la Republique in Paris, it was widely approved by 72.95% of the voters. (France, Fifth Republic)

The Fifth Republic is therefore the fifth and the current Republic of France, which actually emerged from the very ashes of the Fourth Republic, and it served to replace a weak and a 'fictional Parliamentary Government' that had been in existence until that time in France. The Fifth republic gave the people of France a more centralized and a stronger democracy, through which the people could cast their votes and elect their own President from among themselves. Although it is said that the Algerian Crisis was the root cause for the creation of the Fifth republic, it must be remembered that if Charles de Gaulle had not seized upon this opportunity to create a new French Government, then France would have remained still in the time when it had a weak government. (Encyclopedia: French Fifth republic)

The French President, who had been a mere figurehead until that time, now became a more important person, and he would be directly elected by the people of the nation, and not through an 'electoral college'. The 'runoff voting' system used in the Presidential elections to date has granted the President a very high degree of legitimacy, in fact, with much more internal power than their European counterparts, in parliamentary elections. The fact that the President would have to obtain a clear majority at either the first or the second round of elections ahs made the French President even more legitimate, and today, he is a person of high standing, who would uphold the democratic spirit within his country men. (Encyclopedia: French Fifth republic)

Today, it is a fact that studies show that France is highest as far as unemployment rates are concerned, France is indeed at its lowest ebb, and today, French unemployment has risen to its highest level in about five years, and this has led to increasing worry and tensions about the future of France and its economic growth. The International Labor Organization, or the ILO method has analyzed the jobless rates of France as of March 2005, and it showed an increase by…[continue]

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