By Anne Sa'adah
This dynamic creation to modern France analyzes the issues and chances of democracy in a globalizing global.
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Additional info for Contemporary France: A Democratic Education
Two days later, Germany declared war on France. In the bloodletting that followed, a generation of young men disappeared: killed, mutilated, gassed, psychologically destroyed. Much of the fighting took place on French soil, 34 CHAPTER 1 and the names of the killing fields-the Somme, the Marne, Verdun, the Chemin des Dames-would remain engraved in the nation’s collective consciousness for the rest of the century. Something like ten million people, mostly men between the ages of eighteen and forty, died during the four years of killing between August 1914 and November 1918, and about double that number were wounded.
Popular sovereignty was a key element of their ideology. Under the Old Regime, the monarch had been sovereign. He alone had been the (earthly) source of all political authority and the ultimate arbiter of all political decisions. Now, the Jacobins declared “the people” sovereign. In the elections of 1792, universal male suffrage had been introduced. Like the monarch it had replaced, it allowed no checks on its powers. In practice, thisgave the Jacobin leadership absolute power, since it controlled the convention.
The task was too great. On January 28, 1871, the government capitulated. Hastily called elections, held on February 8, returned an assembly relatively open to making peace on unfavorableterms; the assembly decided to meet in Versailles, rather than Paris. Six weeks later, on March 18, more intransigent activists in Paris organized an insurrectionarymovement that we remember as the Commune. The Communurds espoused a potent blend of social radicalism and nationalism: though some elements were more motivated by one ideological program than by the other, the movement was generally hostile both to the Versailles government’s conservative social inclinations and to its apparent willingness 28 CHAPTER 1 to accept draconian peace terms.
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