France from 1450-present

Creation of French Monarchy

After 100 Years' War with English, King Charles VII started consolidating French rule. He expelled the English

Charles VII's son, Louis XI, improved French army & conquered Burgundy

Louis XI's son, Louis XII, married Anne of Brittany, bringing Duchy of Brittany into French realm

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Louis XII's son, Francis I, signed Concordat of Bologna (1516) with Pope Leo X, allowing Francis I to elect French bishops.

Religious War in France

King Francis I of France needed to raise taxes to pay for Habsburg-Valois wars. Signed Concordat of Bologna (1516) with Pope Leo X to gain ability to appoint French clergymen himself

Calvinism became popular among French nobility. Gained popularity in countryside. French Protestants were known as Huguenots

King Henry II died in 1559, so his 3 sons took over & had weak leadership. French nobles adopted Calvinism to weaken French rule. King Henry III became main leader among the 3 sons

Henry of Navarre (Henry IV) took over after Henry III died. Issued Edict of Nantes (1598), allowing Huguenots to practice their religion in 150 cities. 

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King Henry III's sister, Margaret (Catholic), would marry Protestant Henry of Navarre. Intended to reconcile Protestants & Catholics, but instead, Huguenot attendees were massacred (St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre). 

Many fights occurred between Huguenots & Catholics in French countryside. Huguenots destroyed Catholic images as they didn't believe in sacred images 

First Explorers

  • Jacques Cartier sailed for France & landed in Montreal

    • Traded beaver fur with natives & acquired lots of fish

      • Fish was popular as other meat was prohibited by Church on special days

List of Explorers



Year of Journey


Giovanni da Verazzano



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First European to explore North American coast between Florida and New Brunswick (located in present-day Canada). 

Jacques Cartier



Laid claims for France in Canada. Discovered and sailed through St. Lawrence River. 

French Colonialism

  • Samuel de Champlain created permanent French settlement in Quebec in 1608

    • Founded Montreal later on

    • French sailed throughout St. Lawrence river

    • French traded fur with indigenous people

    • French reached Louisiana & Gulf of Mexico via Mississippi River

    • French acquired many colonies & islands in Caribbean & put sugar/tobacco production there

    • French also mostly had local governance instead of direct governance from the French crown


French Absolutism

  • Henry IV founded Bourbon dynasty in 1589

    • Issued Edict of Nantes (1598), allowing Protestants to practice their religion in 150 cities

    • Improved infrastructure, led economic recovery

    • Murdered in 1610 by Catholics

  • In 1610, his son, Louis XIII, took over

    • Cardinal Richelieu became his minister

      • Expanded French army, collected taxes, increased French power​

      • Allied with Protestants to defeat Catholic Habsburgs in 30 Years' War (1618-1648)

  • In 1643, his son, Louis XIV, took over

    • He was 4 years old at the time, so his mom & Cardinal Jules Mazarin helped him​

    • Mazarin continued Richelieu's policies of economic & political growth

      • He failed to increase royal revenues to support war costs, leading to popular uprisings (known as Fronde)

    • Louis XIV took over from his mom & Mazarin & established absolute authority in 1651

      • Known as "sun king," claimed "divine right​"

        • Believed God justified his rule & he was responsible only to god​

      • Instituted many ministries but took part in all their decisions

      • Revoked Edict of Nantes in 1685, sought to suppress Huguenots (French Protestants)

        • Ordered Huguenots to convert to Catholicism or exile themselves

  • In 1682, Louis XIV built Palace of Versailles

    • Ordered all nobles & ministers to live there

    • Queen & noble women glorified & advised him

    • Had elaborate ceremonies to glorify himself

    • Commissioned lots of art


French Decline in Wars

  • Jean-Baptiste Colbert was Louis XIV's financial advisor

    • Believed in mercantilism (a fixed amount of wealth in the world)

    • Believed France needs to export more than its imports to become wealthy

    • Encouraged French to produce more to limit imports & maximize exports

    • Imposed tariffs on foreign imports

  • Colbert encouraged domination of Canada to gain its wealth

    • Sent colonists to Canada to extract is resources

    • French explorers sailed down Mississippi river, landed at its mouth in 1684

      • Named this land Louisiana after Louis XIV​

  • During Louis XIV's reign, France was nearly always involved in wars

    • Francois le Tellier helped boost the French army​

    • Sought to revert France to its original borders

      • Conquered many regions from Netherlands & Germany

    • Strained France's resources

  • France lost in War of Spanish Succession (1701-1713)

    • Charles II of Spain died & his successor, Philip of Anjou, was grandson of Louis XIV

    • A previous treaty said Spain would be divided among France & Holy Roman Empire after Charles II's death

    • English, Dutch, Austrians, Prussians formed Grand Alliance against Louis XIV as they hated the prospect of an alliance between Spain & France

    • Treaty of Utrecht (1713) said Philip of Anjou can inherit throne but can't combine with France

      • France also lost many territories to Britain​



Origins of Enlightenment Thought

  • After Scientific Revolution, people sought to use rational reasoning instead of faith to promote human progress

    • Sought to promote human rights without using religion to justify society

  • Philosophers were known as philosophes

  • Francois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire) believed rulers shouldn't use religion to justify their rule

    • Believed in a strong monarch & distinct social classes, but believed everyone should be free

  • John Locke believed all free men have inalienable rights of life, liberty, pursuit of property

    • Believed government must guarantee these rights, or else the people can overthrow it

  • Denis Diderot wrote an encyclopedia combining all Enlightenment thought

  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote The Social Contract (1762)

    • Believed society should be organized according to the general will & common interests of the people


List of Enlightenment Thinkers

Thomas Hobbes

Believed men are evil & prone to violent warfare. Believed a strong ruler was necessary to prevent war-like behavior of men. 

John Locke

Believed all men have rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of property. Believed ruler must guarantee these rights or else people can overthrow the ruler. 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Believed all men are free & society should organize itself according to majority rule & the will of the general public. 

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Francois-Marie Arouet (Voltaire)

Believed in religious tolerance. Believed rulers shouldn't use religion to justify their rule. 

Baron de Montesquieu

Believed government should have a checks & balances system to prevent it from becoming too powerful. 

Denis Diderot

Wrote Encyclopedia: The Rational Dictionary of the Sciences, the Arts, and the Crafts, an encyclopedia compiling information on Enlightenment thought. 

Influence of Enlightenment Thought

  • Enlightenment led to a slight reform in the church

    • Italian Enlightenment led to a decline in excessive penalties for violating religious law

  • Scottish Enlightenment emphasized common sense & rational reasoning

    • Eventually led to mandatory education for children (first European nation to implement it)

    • Led to lots of intellectual growth in Scotland

  • Enlightenment thought spread via books

    • People read & discussed Enlightenment thought in salons

  • Enlightenment thinkers justified racism

    • Believed humans were one race but organized themselves into a hierarchy, with Europeans at the top & Africans at bottom​


French Revolution

Origins of French Revolution

  • France had lots of war debts, which it couldn't easily fix

    • France was involved in 7 Years' War & American Revolution, contributing to its war debts

    • France didn't have paper money nor a central bank, so it couldn't print more money

  • French monarchy was also weakening

    • Usually mistresses advised the king, but Louis XV hated his mistress​

    • Louis XVI took over in 1774 after Louis XV died

      • He was really incompetent

  • Louis XVI sought to raise taxes to compensate for the war debts

    • He needed approval of the parliamentary body, Estates General, before raising taxes​

    • Estates General hadn't met since 1614

    • Estates General has 3 groups: Clergy, Nobility, Commoners

      • Each group only has one vote even though commoners make up 95% of population

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French Revolution under National Assembly

Louis XVI called the Estates General to meet in 1789 

Third Estates (commoners) formed National Assembly, a constitutional monarchy with civil liberties

National Assembly members met in an indoor tennis court. Agreed to "Tennis Court Oath," agreed not to disband until they receive constitutional liberties

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Adopted Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen (1789). Gave constitutional liberties to all free men. Abolished feudalism, kept monarchy

Peasants continued to attack nobles & lords as they wanted better rights. Known as Great Fear

Peasants were angered due to poor harvest & high bread price. They stormed Bastille prison to acquire weapons as they feared the French monarch would attack them

Aristocrats & nobles left France as they feared being attacked. Their absence caused economy to decline

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7,000 women marched from Paris to Versailles, demanding lower prices of bread

In 1791, King Louis XVI agreed to sign constitution giving National Assembly its rights. Had enlightenment values, religious toleration, not many women's rights

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French monarchy fled Paris to evade the violence. Kings of Austria & Prussia signed Declaration of Pillnitz (1791), agreeing to help restore French monarchy

Established new national church, adopted Civil Constitution of the Clergy (1790), an oath that all clergy must take. Pope disagreed with the oath, so only 1/2 of French clergy took the oath

Many women (and also men) believed women should get equal rights. Olympe de Gouges published Declaration on the Rights of Woman, believing women are free

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National Assembly declared war on Habsburg King Francis II in 1792. Marched to Palace of Tuileries where the king fled & imprisoned him (second revolution)

People feared Prussia would invade France, so they started killing aristocrats & priests (September Massacres)

Popularly-elected National Convention, a new constitution, replaced the National Assembly, declaring France a republic

French Revolution under Convention & Directory

In Sept 1792, popularly-elected National Convention replaced National Assembly, made France a republic (power was in people not monarch)

Convention was dominated by Jacobin club, a group of Parisians that debated about politics. Divided among Girondists (opposed killing Louis XVI & The Mountain (supported killing Louis XVI)

Leader of the Mountain, Maximilien Robespierre, killed King Louis XVI in Jan 1793 with guillotine

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Mountain gained support of the poor laborers (known as sans-culottes) & took over Girondists in the Convention

Drafted people into military. Peasants hated military drafting & led Vendee Rebellion (1793-1796)

Declared war on Britain, Netherlands, and Spain (in addition to Prussia & Austria)

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Robespierre used guillotine to execute everyone who opposed the Convention (Reign of Terror (1793-1794)). Executed Olympe de Gouges

Made radical changes: Suppressed Catholic rituals & beliefs, promoted secular rituals. Established new calendar with 10-day week

In 1795, middle-class revolutionaries tried to kill Robespierre. Wanted more power for upper classes (Thermodirian Reaction)

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Many people hated the Directory's corruption as it only focused on war efforts. In 1799, a military general, Napoleon Bonaparte overthrew the Directory, established the Consulate

These middle-class revolutionaries established the Directory (1795). Only property-owning men had privileges. This was a military government

French Revolution under Napoleon

In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte, a military general, overthrew the Directory & established the Consulate, a military dictatorship

Created Napoleonic Codes (1804), granting civil liberties to all men but not women. Appealed to peasants by allowing them to keep the land they gained during the revolution

Revived Catholicism in France. Signed Concordat of 1801 with Pope Pius VII, gaining the right to elect French bishops

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British fleet destroyed French at Battle of Trafalgar (1805)

Signed Treaty of Amiens (1802) with Britain. Gained parts of Dutch Republic, Austrian Netherlands, Italy

Defeated Austria, Signed Treaty of Luneville (1801), gained parts of Italy & Germany

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Napoleon defeated Third Coalition (Austria, Russia, Sweden, Britain) at Battle of Austerlitz (1805), causing it to collapse

Established protectorate over 15 German states (Confederation of the Rhine) (1806)

Defeated Prussia, signed Treaties of Tilsit (1807), Prussia & Russia would help France by blockading British goods

Britain supported guerillas in Spain against France & imposed counter-blockade on France, causing Continental System to fail. Also, Alexander I of Russia renounced blockade of British goods

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Conquered Spain in 1808, made it a French satellite as part of the Grand Empire

Made Continental System: No ship from Britain or its colonies can dock at a French port

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Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 because Alexander I renounced British blockade. He burned Moscow, but Russian wintertime caused his troops to suffer & die

Austria, Prussia, Russia, Britain signed Treaty of Chaumont (1814), causing Napoleon to exile in Elba

In Feb 1815, Napoleon escaped exile, reorganized his army, but was defeated at Waterloo & sent to exile in remote island of St. Helena where he died (Jun 1815)

Compare & Contrast the 4 Constitutions of French Revolution

National Assembly

Power rested in the nation-state, not the king or the people. Adopted civil liberties for men. Still kept a monarchy but later abolished it. 


Power rested in the people. This was a republic. Made radical changes (10-day week, turned against religion). Used guillotine. Gave more civil liberties to the people


This was a military government. Power was mostly in the military. This had less civil liberties than the Convention. 

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This was a dictatorship. Power was in Napoleon and his army. Gave civil liberties to men though Napoleonic Codes. Reformed education & infrastructure. 

Aftermath of French Revolution & Congress of Vienna

  • Congress of Vienna was a series of meetings of the Quadruple alliance against Napoleon (Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia)

    • First met in 1814

    • Prince Klemens von Metternich of Austria led the meeting

    • Sought to restore European balance of power after Napoleon

  • Congress of Vienna signed first Treaty of Paris

    • France was restored to its 1792 borders, which were much larger than its pre-revolution borders​

    • Sought to maintain balance of power by giving each nation a specific amount of territory

  • After Napoleon escaped from Elba, second Treaty of Paris was signed

    • France had to pay 700 million francs for the war

  • Metternich believed in the idea of conservatism

    • Didn't want radical changes as it leads to useless revolutions

    • Hated the idea of nationalism because Austria was multiethnic

  • Austria, Prussia, Russia formed Holy Alliance (1815) to repress revolutionary movements

    • Sought to bring constitutional monarchies in Italy, Spain, etc.​

    • Metternich hated this & restored Spanish autocracy in 1823

    • Also organized Germany into loose confederation of 38 states with ambassadors to a Confederation Diet

      • Issued Karlsbad Decrees​ (1819), suppressing liberal organizations & press in Germany

    • Also suppressed reform in Russia as a group of liberals failed to march for reform in 1825


French Revolution of 1830 / July Revolution (Liberal)

Napoleon's successor, Louis XVIII (Bourbon Restoration), created Constitutional Charter (1814), a constitutional monarchy with some liberal reforms

Charles X took over in 1824, sought to repeal Constitutional Charter of 1814 & remove rights of middle class

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Charles X fled during July Revolution. Upper middle class put his cousin, Louis Philippe, in charge (1830)

Liberalists (mostly lower & middle classes) protested for 3 days (July Revolution) (1830)

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Louis Philippe adopted Constitutional Charter of 1814, gave many rights to upper middle class, gave few rights to poor

Liberal revolution in France inspired other liberal revolutions: Belgian Catholics revolted against Protestant Netherlands, proclaimed independent Belgium (1830)

Chamber of Deputies (Parliament) opposed his ideas. Charles X gained popular support by rallying. He conquered Algeria in 1830, increasing his popular support

Charles X repealed Constitutional Charter of 1814, removed voting rights of wealthy middle class, censored the press

French Revolution of 1848

French people hated reign of Louis Philippe, he was corrupt & only served wealthy elites

Group of Frenchmen (both bourgeoisie & proletariats led revolt against him in 1848. Louis Philippe abdicated, protestors created a 10-man council with republican government

Protestors established democratic republican constitution, known as France's second republic. Voting rights to all adult males

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Artisans & unskilled workers revolted, wanting a socialist government. Peasants didn't want socialism as it abolishes their private property. National Guard suppressed the revolt

In Apr 1848 legislative elections, monarchists & conservatives won, republicans & socialists lost, leading to more violence

Louis Blanc, a socialist, wanted many government-sponsored workshops (small factories / labs) where poor can work. Republicans wanted less workshops

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Government abolished Parisian workshops, forcing poor people to work in the provinces

Artisans revolted again, rioted in Parisian streets, known as "June Days," but national army suppressed it

Constituent Assembly (parliament) adopted constitution with strong leader. Louis Napoleon, nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte, won Dec 1848 elections, became president (Napoleon III)

Napoleon III's Rise to Power

Louis Napoleon gained popular support as he supported reform programs & would protect private property of poor peasants & urban workers

Louis Napoleon easily won election of Dec 1848, promoted vision of national unity & progress

Required to share power with National Assembly (parliament), signed conservative bills (more Catholicism, less rights for poor, etc) so that parliament could alter constitution & give him 2nd term

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In 1852, Louis Napoleon removed rights of parliament, proclaimed himself emperor Napoleon III, ruled as emperor from 1852-1870

In 1851, National Assembly refused to alter constitution to give him a 2nd term

Napoleon III's Rule in France

  • Ruled as emperor from 1852-1870

  • Promoted economic growth

    • Financed banks, railroads, public works

    • Rebuilt Paris

      • B​aron Georges Haussman planned the rebuilt Paris

      • Built tree-lined avenues & ring roads to ease transportation

      • Built more parks & removed slums

  • Gave urban workers right to form labor unions & strike, but they still resented his rule

  • At first, he had complete political power & gave little sovereignty to parliament

    • He chose his ministers & urged famous people to run for parliament to build popular support

    • Didn't give any power to parliament

    • Won in elections of 1857 and 1863

  • After 1863, his regime started falling apart

    • Wanted to reorganize Europe based on nationalities & even gain more territory for France

      • This caused many to resent him as they believed he was wasting resources

    • He understood that popular support is important for electoral victories, so he granted liberal reforms

      • Gave National Assembly (parliament) more power, gave opposition candidates more freedom​

    • He won elections of 1869, and drafted new constitution in 1870, giving parliament more power

    • In 1870, France lost Franco-Prussian War, making French power decline

    • In 1870, Parliament approved the constitution, making Napoleon III a democratic ruler instead of emperor


France After 1871

In Franco-Prussian War (1870-1871), Prussia defeated French in 1870. French republicans wanted to continue war, so Prussia defeated French in 1871 in Paris

Monarchists & conservatives were elected to Parliament. Surrendered Alsace & Lorraine to Prussia 

French republicans hated this surrender, Declared their own autonomous government called Paris Commune in March 1871

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Legalized trade unions, expanded colonial empire, made education compulsory for boys & girls. Catholic schools still existed

France needed a gov that leads to French unity. Chose a republican government

French army crushed Paris Commune

Pope Leo XIII hated implementation of secular schools

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Dreyfus affair led to more tension: Jewish army officer (Dreyfus) was falsely convicted. Catholics & anti-Semites opposed Dreyfus, but republicans believed Dreyfus was innocent

French gov removed all ties to Catholic church: Stopped paying salaries to priests, put lay Catholics in charge of churches, etc.

German Battle on Western Front with France in World War 1

Germany tried attacking France through Belgium (according to Schlieffen Plan)

France stopped Germany at River Marne. British also helped Belgian army attack Germans. Later attacked Germans at Battle of Somme

Battle was a stalemate for 4 years

End of the War

British imposed a naval blockade on Germany, preventing food from reaching there. There were many German protests for more food

France also had a protest among soldiers, but Germans didn't hear it due to censorship

Germany decided to give one last attack westward to France

Bulgaria, Ottomans, Austria-Hungary, and Germany surrendered to the Allies (1918)

France easily defended, Germany ran out of resources

Paris Settlement & Treaty of Versailles (1920)

  • Woodrow Wilson (US), Lloyd George (UK), George Clemenceau (France) led meeting at Paris
    • 28 nations were invited, none of Central Powers​
    • Meeting was in chaos due to conflicting views
    • Discussed how to punish Germany for the war
  • Wilson's 14 Points
    • Wilson previously drafted 14 Points, a document entailing potential post-war peace treaties
    • Suggested reduction in armaments production, equal naval trade, self-determination (independence) for some colonies, etc.
  • They established the League of Nations, an organization of nations to promote security
  • League of Nations failed as it relied on collective security (nations agree to maintain security with each other)
  • Eventually they passed Treaty of Versailles (1920)
    • Made Germany pay reparations for the war
    • Made Germany reduce armaments production
    • Restricted size of German military
    • Banned Germany from having air force & navy

French Response to the Great Depression

  • France was unsuccessful in combating the Great Depression due to political conflict within France

    • Had steady decline until 1935,​ later recovered slightly but never fully

    • French republican gov was challenged on both sides: Communists & Fascists competed for influence

    • Communists, Socialists, Radicals formed alliance called Popular Front against Fascists

      • Led by Leon Blum, initiated social reform programs (paid vacation, 40-hour work week, etc.)

      • This failed due to inflation & because Fascists and conservatives hated this

    • During Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), French communists supported Spanish republicans, while French conservatives supported Spanish fascists

    • All of this dissension within France caused its economy to recover slower than other nations


France Invades Germany After WW1

Germany didn't want to pay the WW1 reparations listed in the Treaty of Versailles. France needed these reparations for economic recovery

France allied with Central European nations against Germany because France needed German reparations

Germany agreed to pay $33 billion in reparations in annual installments of $2.5 billion

Germany told people of Rhine-Ruhr to stop working so French would leave. French sealed Rhine-Ruhr from rest of Germany (only allowing food to pass through) & forced inhabitants to pay war reparations

French & Belgian armies conquered Rhine-Ruhr region of Germany, forced them to pay reparations

Germany payed reparations in 1921 & 1922 but then called for 3 year moratorium. Britain accepted but France didn't

German economy was collapsing, printed paper money, which actually caused inflation. New German foreign minister Gustav Stresemann called for reexamination of Germany's ability to pay  

French PM Raymond Poincare agreed. American banker Charles Dawes made Dawes Plan (1924), said reparations are proportional to German economic output

France & Germany accepted common border in 1925. In 1928, 15 nations signed Kellogg-Briand Pact, agreeing not to have war

Allied Victory & Axis Surrender in World War 2

  • On D-Day (6/6/1944), US & British troops landed in Normandy, France

    • 2 million troops & 500,000 army vehicles from Allies pushed the German front lines all the way to the German border

    • By 1945, the Allies forces had crossed the Rhine into Germany

    • Also, Allies forces pushed Germans out of Italy in 1945​

      • The same year, Italian communists executed Mussolini

  • Meanwhile, Russian forces defeated Germans & pushed westward into Germany

    • In 1944, the Polish underground army took over Warsaw (Warsaw Uprising), but Soviets didn't enter Warsaw as they predicted the uprising

    • Thus, Germans crushed the Warsaw Uprising & allowed Soviets to freely advance

    • Soviets took over Yugoslavia, Romania, Hungary

    • Soviets entered Germany from the east in Jan 1925 & met US & British forces there

  • Germans were forced to surrender on May 8, 1945

    • Hitler committed suicide a week earlier


In 1957, France joined the Common Market along with Italy, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and Luxembourg

Decolonization of French Colonies 

  • French put all of its colonies in a French Commonwealth, but Algeria wanted complete independence, leading to war

    • Algerians in Algeria created National Liberation Front (NLF), attacked French armies & French in Algeria​

    • War lasted from 1954-1962, and Algerians won independence

  • Still, after independence, Europeans still maintained ties with former colonies & gave them funding

    • Known as neocolonialism


French retook Indochina after Japan conquered it during WW2, but Vietnam declared independence from French in 1955