Photographic book

France in the 1950s


France
France

Overall the Fourth Republic dealt successfully with economic issues, but it was less successful in resolving colonial ones. Decolonization eventually brought down the regime, much as the Franco-Prussian War had terminated the Second Empire and World War II the Third Republic. The sprawling French Empire, like those of other European nations, faced widespread revolts after World War II.

In Indochina, resistance movements had been organized to oppose the Japanese, who had occupied the area during World War II. After the war, these movements were redirected against French imperialism. From 1946 to 1954 the French army attempted to suppress the resistance movements in Indochina, but it was dealt a humiliating defeat at the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954 (see First Indochina War). Prime Minister Mendès-France arranged for as graceful a diplomatic and military withdrawal from Indochina as was possible under the circumstances, and he preempted trouble in Morocco and Tunisia by conceding independence. The prime minister faced a much more difficult situation in Algeria, where the vast majority of Arab Algerians wanted independence but the 1 million European settlers there demanded the continued protection of French rule.

A violent independence movement began in 1954, and increasingly large numbers of French troops were sent to Algeria to put it down. The movement escalated into a virtual civil war involving the use of terror and torture. Extremists in the French army and their sympathizers who feared a French pullout from Algeria plotted to bring down the French government. By 1958 it was clear that the Fourth Republic could not resolve the crisis. Supporters of Charles de Gaulle, who had bided his time in retirement, plotted to use the turmoil to put him in power under a new constitution, and eventually a smooth transition was arranged. De Gaulle became the last prime minister of the Fourth Republic. In May 1958 the National Assembly vested him with full power for six months and the authority to draft a new constitution, to be approved by the voters. Then in June the Assembly dissolved itself. The Fourth Republic was dead. "France" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.

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