French Civil War 1871

[ 1871 ]

During the Franco-Prussian War, after the surrender and capture of France's Emperor Napoleon III (1808-73) at Sedan, the Third Republic was established at Paris, where the proud inhabitants withstood the German siege until forced to capitulate because of starvation. By then, the Third Republic's National Assembly had relocated in Bordeaux and soon negotiated peace terms with the Germans. Humiliated by German troops in their city and the "dishonorable" peace agreed to by the largely monarchist assembly, the French leaders remaining in Paris set up an independent republican government, the Commune of Paris, and refused to obey the assembly, which sent government troops to occupy the city in March 1871, but were driven out. Faced with civil rebellion by the "radical" Communards, who squabbled among themselves and tried futile experiments in municipal government, the assembly, which had moved to Versailles, induced the victorious Prussians, who affected neutrality, to release French prisoners in order to form an army to besiege Paris. Entering the city, the government troops met desperate, fierce resistance by the Communards behind barricades during "Bloody Week" (May 21-28, 1871) and ruthlessly shot down thousands of them. The Communards, who were gradually pushed to the center of the city, murdered hostages they had taken, including the archbishop of Paris, and burned the Tuileries Palace, the city hall, the Palace of Justice, and other prominent buildings before being crushed. Summary executions of at least 17,000 prisoners were carried out by the victors, who imprisoned or exiled to penal colonies many others. Communes in other French cities, notably Marseilles, Toulouse, and Saint-Etienne, were also overthrown with merciless reprisals afterward in 1871. The radicals were left leaderless, the citizenry demanded a stern republic, and the monarchists worked for restoration, even of an absolutist French regime.

Related Conflicts

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