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Historical survey

How the Kingdom of France was Built up

In 59 BC, Julius Cesar conquered Gaul which was occupied by different Celtic tribes. The Christianisation of France began with the Roman civilisation. After the invasions and the barbaric (...)

In 59 BC, Julius Cesar conquered Gaul which was occupied by different Celtic tribes. The Christianisation of France began with the Roman civilisation. After the invasions and the barbaric kingdoms, Clovis united the country in 481 then, in 781, Charlemagne founded the Frankish Empire.
The empire was divided in three in 843, and the Capetians created the kingdom of France at the end of the first millennium (987). This was an era of renewal, especially religious renewal and monachism experienced great development. During the Middle Ages the Kingdom of France, through a patient annexation policy, acquired a large number of provinces. The assimilation process was rather slow and respected regional idiosyncrasies, especially religious ones.
Nevertheless, Catharism roused the South of France. The Crusade against the "Albigensians" (which began in 1208) marked the defeat of the South of France against the North and guaranteed, after a forced suppression of the Occitan culture, the unity of kingdom.
With Louis IX (1226-1270), and until Philippe the Fair (1285-1314), a new concept of the State arose, according to which the King was regarded as the living representation of the law. It was this conception that gave way to the conflict between Charles the Fair (1322-1328) and the Church.
The succession crisis that broke out at the accession of Philippe VI (1328-1350) was an opportunity to go into conflict with England, the "Hundred Years’ War". France came out of the war united and the kingdom expanded.

24 September 2012

The Reformation and the Religious Wars

The Reformation reached France in the 16th century. Under the rule of François the first (1515-1547), then Henry II (1547-1559), tolerance turned into persecution. Nevertheless, Calvinism spread (...)

The Reformation reached France in the 16th century. Under the rule of François the first (1515-1547), then Henry II (1547-1559), tolerance turned into persecution. Nevertheless, Calvinism spread throughout France (the first Calvinist synod was held in Paris in 1559).

The violence of both sides started the Religious Wars (1562-1598), which became an international war. After the defeat of the Spanish (Treaty of Vervins), religious passions had to give way to a compromise, religious peace. Henry IV (1589-1610) established religious tolerance for the first time (Edict of Nantes, 1598).

The pacification and restoration of the country reinforced royal authority and Louis XIV (1643-1715) even became the temporal head of the Church. However, absolutism resulted in the anti-Protestant measures of Richelieu (secretary of State in 1616, joined the King’s Council in 1624) and finally in the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685).
It was once again a time of religious persecution against Protestants and Jansenists. These persecutions provoked the massive exodus of Protestants who found refuge in the Netherlands, England and Germany.

The political problems and the war declared against Austria (April 1792) got the better of the monarchy and the first Republic was proclaimed on 21 September 1792. France then had a revolutionary government that was very centralising and authoritative.
Internal instability and the pursuit of war allowed Napoleon Bonaparte to carry out a coup d’etat (1799). He then instituted the Empire that pursued the centralising movement, and added to it an expansionist policy. The administrative and legislative unification of France dates back to the Napoleonic institutions. Napoleon’s conquering policy, successful at first, experienced many successive failures, forcing him to abdicate in 1815.

24 September 2012

The Age of Enlightenment and the Secularisation of France

Aside from the Enlightenment, the 18th century was marked by the French Revolution (1789) and the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen". The tension of the politico-religious (...)

Aside from the Enlightenment, the 18th century was marked by the French Revolution (1789) and the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen". The tension of the politico-religious situation of the Old Regime (Louis XIV’s fight against an "all Catholic France"), the questions of freedom of conscience, the civil constitution of the clergy (difficulties of a peaceful religious pluralism), and the philosophy of the Enlightenment were the breading ground for secularism.
The Concordat regime (of recognised religions) was established in France from 1789 to 1804. This change is often considered the first step in France’s secularisation. An institutional fragmentation was under way (medicine and education are independent of the Church and pluralism of recognised religions). The drafting of the French Civil Code demonstrates the recognition of the social legitimacy of religion, but it is also means increased independence for the civil sector with respect to the religious sector. The State finally considered the religion of the majority as a recognised social fact.

24 September 2012

The Franco-Prussian war and the distinctive history of Alsace-Lorraine

Napoleon’s policy to conquer, while initially crowned with success, led to several failures in succession which forced him to abdicate in 1815. France then underwent the Restoration (1814-1830) (...)

Napoleon’s policy to conquer, while initially crowned with success, led to several failures in succession which forced him to abdicate in 1815. France then underwent the Restoration (1814-1830) and the "July monarchy" (1830-1848), followed by the Second Empire (1852-1870).

Tension was high between German and French powers; a war opposed the Second Empire to German kingdoms united behind the Kingdom of Prussia (July 1870 - May 1871). The Prussian army crushed the French army and the war ended with the Treaty of Frankfurt (1871), which re-attached Alsace-Lorraine to Germany.

This explains the existence of a local law in Alsace and Moselle. It has several sources: French laws of before 1870 not repealed by the German administration, German laws passed by the German Empire between 1871 and 1918, measures specific to Alsace-Moselle adopted by local bodies at the time and, finally, French laws passed after 1918, but applicable to the three départements. These provisions were maintained by the law of 1 June 1924 (see the the overview of the status of religions in France) and continue to apply in the three departments of the Lower Rhine, Upper Rhine and Moselle.

24 September 2012

The 3rd Republic and Present-day France

France then experienced the Restoration (1814-1830) and the July Monarchy (1830-1848), then the second Empire (1852-1870). The second Empire collapsed following military defeats, making way for (...)

France then experienced the Restoration (1814-1830) and the July Monarchy (1830-1848), then the second Empire (1852-1870). The second Empire collapsed following military defeats, making way for the 3rd Republic (1871-1940).
This was a time of conflict regarding the conception of citizenship and national identity. Free, public and mandatory schooling was instituted by Jules Ferry (1879-1883), recommending "secular morality" (dignity, merit, solidarity). As of 1880 secular laws (authorisation to work on Sundays, possibility of divorcing (1884), abolition of State Catholic Theology faculties, and secularisation of schools in 1886) were promulgated.
Finally, the integration of the Catholic Church in secular France can be imagined through the law on separation, promulgated on 9 December 1905 (in Alsace and Lorraine, however, local legislation, the Concordat and German laws were maintained).
The 3rd Republic came to an end in 1940 after Hitler’s Germany invaded France. After the French State (1940-1944) and the temporary government (1944-1947), the 4th Republic lasted from 1947 to 1958 and the 5th Republic was instituted in 1958.

France became a member of the Western European Union in 1954 and in 1957 of the European Economic Community, which in 1993 became the European Union.

24 September 2012