France: 1950-1979

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The Fourth Republic

Background

The Fourth Republic led France out of World War II and into the Western Renaissance. Jean Monet, a pragmatic economic planner, boldly set ambitious goals for the French economy. The country experienced the fastest development in its history. The French Foreign Minister, Robert Schuman, would be one of the first to call for a joint Europoean organization to regulate the production of steel and oil. The downfall of the Fourth Republic would be its colonial claims. A lengthy war in Algeria would lead the people to select a new leader.

Timeline: 1948-1958

1948 France creates and joins the Organization of European Economic Cooperation, designed to help administer the Marshall Plan (eco).
1949 NATO formed. France is a member from the beginning (pol).
1952 West Germany, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg eagerly accept the French idea to unify European steel and coal production (eco).
1954 The First Indochina War ends. France is defeated by rebels in modern-day Vietnam. A U.N. mandate takes France's colonial claims in Asia (soc).
1954 Algerian War for Independence from France begins (soc).
1957 The Coal and Steel Community sign the Treaty of Rome, which creates the Common Market, encouraging a gradual of tariffs (eco).

The Fifth Republic: de Gaulle

Background
Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle

The optimistic fifties were soon replaced by a return to Conservatism in the sixties. France led the way by replacing the forward-thinking Fourth Republic with General Charles de Gaulle, a strict anti-American. The Algerian War, a bloody one with numerous human rights violations on both sides, soon came to an end. Revolts towards the end of De Gaulle's reign were met with violence from the side of the government. To end the revolution, the government moved troops towards Paris and called for new elections. The people overwhelmingly reelected de Gaulle's party so that life could return to normal. Shaken by the revolution, though, de Gaulle resigned in 1969.

Timeline: 1958-1969

1958 De Gaulle comes to power. He immediately withdraws France from the "American" NATO (pol).
1958 De Gualle offers French colonies in Africa a choice between a complete break with France or independence in a French commonwealth. Associating with French culture, most leaders choose to stay with France (eco).
1962 Algerian War ends with an Arab Nationalist victory (soc).
1968 Following the examples of their counterparts in the United States, French students clash with police. In their efforts to topple the De Gaulle regime and reform education in France, they occupy the University of Paris. Workers join the revolution too, but it is quashed by the government (soc).
1969 De Gaulle resigns (pol).

The Fifth Republic: Pompidou and d'Estaing

Background

With the Arab-Israeli conflict culminating in the war of 1973 and an Islamic Revolution in Iran, the 1970's were marked by two major oil shocks for France and the rest of the Western nations. Unemployment in France was rampant.

A characteristic sign of the period.
A characteristic sign of the period.
Timeline: 1969-1979

1969 Georges Pompidou, a Roman Catholic school teacher from the same party as Charles de Gaulle (pol).
1970 Charles de Gaulle dies of a stroke (pol).
1973 First oil shock when OPEC declares an embargo. In France, employment drops rapidly (eco).
1974 Pompidou dies in office. He is replaced by interim president Alain Poher (pol).
1974 Valéry Giscard d'Estaing becomes president of the Republic (pol).
1979 Price of crude oil doubles during the second oil shock (eco).

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