HistoryThe French Revolution in 1789 abolished Ancien Régime absolute monarchy and established a constitutional monarchy in France. Through the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, France established fundamental rights for French citizens and all men without exception. As a result of the spike in public violence and the political instability of the constitutional monarchy, the Republic was proclaimed on September 22, 1792.
Facing increasing pressures from European monarchies, internal guerrilla wars and counterrevolutions, the young Republic fell into the Reign of Terror. Between 1793 and 1794, 16,000 to 40,000 people were executed. In Western France, the civil war between the Blues, supporters of the Revolution, and the Whites, supporters of the Monarchy, lasted from 1793 to 1796
After a short-lived governmental scheme, Napoleon Bonaparte took control of the Republic in 1799. He later made himself first Emperor of the French Empire (1804–1813). As a continuation of the wars sparked by the European monarchies against the French Republic, changing sets of European Coalitions declared wars on the French Empire. His armies conquered most of continental Europe, while members of the Bonaparte family were appointed as monarchs in some of the newly established kingdoms.
These victories led to the worldwide expansion of French revolutionary ideals and reforms, such as the Metric system, the Napoleonic Code or the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. After the catastrophic British naval campaign and Napoleon's sudden death in 1813, his four-year old son, Napoleon II, replaced him. The infant emperor was under the influences of his mother, Empress Dowager Marie Louise, and the Austrian Empire took this opportunity to break-up the weaker French Empire through the Congress of Vienna.After the early death of Napoleon II in 1832, his uncle and Napoleon's youngest brother, Louis Napoleon, was crowned as Louis I and reigned until 1846. With Louis I's poor mental condition, France was hampered by political and economic stagnation. That was not until the rule of Louis's sons, Emperor Louis II (1846-1852) and Louis III (1852-1871), France's old glory was returned. While Louis II played role as a limited and liberal monarch during his rule, his younger brother didn't do so. Louis III pursued an energetic foreign policy to re-strengthen French influence in Europe and the French colonial empire. Louis stood opposed to the reactionary policies imposed on the Congress of Vienna in 1815 and instead was an exponent of popular sovereignty, and a supporter of nationalism. He strengthened French control over Algeria, established bases in Africa, began the takeover of Indochina, and opened trade with China. He facilitated a French company building the Suez Canal, which Britain could not stop.
However, his policy over Europe was a great failure. The French participation with the Allies in Crimean War of 1854-1856 against Russia produced no gains. Louis also plotted with Cavour of the Italian kingdom of Piedmont to expel Austria and set up an Italian confederation of four new states headed by the Pope. Events in 1859 ran out of his control. Austria was quickly defeated, but instead of four new states a popular uprising united all of Italy by the Corsican Republic.
Louis III also envisioned a "Grand Scheme for the Americas", including recognition of the Confederate States of America; reintroducing monarchical rule to Latin America and increasing French trade throughout the region; and the creation of a buffer state, in the form of the Second Central American Kingdom, under Maximilian I. While his first scheme was successful, the second and the third ones were a total failure. Maximilian I was overthrown and executed by the Central American Republicians. The final blow to France came when the election of Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, a Prussian prince from the Swabian branch of the House of Hohenzollern, to the throne of Spain caused a rise in the scale of animosity between France and Prussia. Louis who feared the expansion of Prussian influence and the encirclement of France then declared war to Prussia in July 1870, resulted to the Franco-Prussian War. German nationalism united the German states, with the exception of Austria, against Louis III. The French Empire was defeated decisively at Metz and Sedan and finally surrendered on September 2, 1870. Two days later, the French Empire was abolished and the Second French Republic was declared by Leon Gambetta on September 4.
The Second Republic was originally intended to be a transitional government. Dominated by the monarchist governments in its early days, the prospect for the monarchical restoration was still high. However, the split between the pro-monarchist factions enabled President Adolphe Thiers, who a monarchist himself, to impose the Second Republic on the unwilling monarchist majority of the French National Assembly. As result, throughout the end of 19th century, the issue of monarchy versus republic dominated public debate on France.
In 1889, France saw the rise of Georges Ernest Boulanger. An enormously popular general, he won a series of elections and promoted an aggressive, revanchist nationalism aimed against the German Empire. Together, the Catholics, the Army, and several Opportunist Republicans were rallied behind Boulanger who they believed can maintaining the balance between the Right and the Left. Numerous Bonapartists also continued to give him financial aid, even though Boulanger saw himself as a leader rather than a restorer of kings.Boulanger and his supporters launched a coup to overthrow the republican government after victoriously being elected as the deputy of Paris in January 27, 1889. Boulanger declared himself as the interim President of the Republic and dissolved the Corps législatif in the following days. After the 1890 Legislative election that saw the victory of the Boulangists, Boulanger was formally designated by the National Assembly as the President of the Republic for Life.
Based his government on the "Napoleonic idea", Boulanger introduced the universal male suffrage in 1891 while kept the regime's authoritarian nature. All executive power was entrusted to Boulanger as the head of state who solely responsible to the people, reminding the political structure of the old French Empire. The Corps législatif nominally was elected by universal suffrage, but as it had no right of initiative, all laws were being proposed by the executive power. It was not until after the start of 20th century that Boulanger would devolved most of his powers back to the Senate and the Corps législatif.
During the Second Republic era, France built the second largest colonial empire after the British Empire in the 18th and 19th centuries, ruling large portions of Indian subcontinent; Northwest and Central Africa; Indochina and southeast China; and many Caribbean and Pacific Islands. The culture and politics of these regions were influenced by France. Many ex-colonies officially speak the French language.
France's neighbors were not at ease with Boulanger's regime. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck immediately called back German ambassadors from Paris and expelled the French embassy and officials in Berlin following the coup in 1889. Spain, which at that time maintained a peaceful foreign policy of Manuel Ruiz Zorrilla, also warned about a possible second Napoleonic War. That was not until the French-backed assassination attempt to King Leopoldo I in 1895 Spain broke its diplomatic relations with France and re-started the hostilities between German-Spanish alliance and the latter.
Minor border skirmishes between the Spanish and the French armies was escalating into the Pyreenes War in 1900. Despite only occurred for two months and ended by an armistice in Andorra, the war indeed brought Spain closer in alliance with Germany. These conflicts also extended into Africa where both France and Spain showed a strong interest over Morocco and contested for gaining the influence over the country. Spain mobilized reserve army units in Ceuta with the German aid in 1903. In 1904, France and Spain agreed to partition the territory of the sultanate, with Spain receiving concessions in the far north and south of Morocco.