From Liberal Empire to the Third Republic

The Fall of the Liberal Empire

After the coup in December 1851, Napoleon III had control of the legislature. He was supported by the church, the army, peasants, and business people. Napoleon began to make liberal concessions to compensate for his failures in foreign policy, in hopes of winning back public support. The Franco-Prussian war was one such foreign involvement that Napoleon was failing at. France was eventually defeated by Prussia. This marked the end of the Second Empire. The following transition of power and the formation of a new standing government would reflect the pathetic floundering of the new National Assembly and its failed attempts to restore a monarchy. The consequential bloodshed that would ensue also demonstrated the strong and divided political opinions that occupied the various provinces of France.
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Conflicts and Political Reorganization

The major source of conflict for France during this transitional phase was political opposition. After the liberal empire fell with the Battle of Sedan and the subsequent capture of Napoleon III, a republic was proclaimed. The new National Assembly, dominated by monarchists, gave power to liberal Adolphe Thiers, for the time being. This enraged the Parisian, who felt somehow betrayed by the monarchist National Assembly. In turn, the Parisians created the radical socialist Paris Commune, which administered to Paris separately from the rest of France. The National Assembly surrounded Paris and bombarded the city until it capitulated. This lasted a week and was called the "Bloody Week." Once France was unified again, the National Assembly continued to try to decide who should become the next king in the favored future "restored monarchy." Because they were so divided, between the Bourbons and the Orleans, the Assembly members backed into a Republic form of government against their own will. Thiers was ousted and replaced by Marshal Patrice, a conservative, military leader, who ushered in the new Third republic.
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Battle Results

Paris Commune:

  • The Parisians resented what they had regarded as a betrayal in Versailles. They elected a new municipal government, which was called the Paris Commune. It was proclaimed March 28, 1871.

  • This Commune was intended to administer Paris separately from France as a whole. Radicals and socialists all participated in the Commune.

  • In April, the National Assembly surrounded Paris with an army, and bombarded the city on May 8. On May 21, the bombardment broke through the city’s defenses. Over the span of seven days, the troops managed to kill 20,000 inhabitants.

  • The National Assembly destroyed particular political tendencies of Paris, and those of any other French community.

Franco-Prussian War

  • July 19, 1870-May 10, 1871

  • Who was involved: France and Prussia

  • Why it started: Otto von Bismarck thought it was necessary to arose German nationalism in the people, and spark the unification of a German empire.

  • “I knew that a Franco-Prussian War must take place before a united Germany was formed.” Otto von Bismark

  • How it ended: The French were defeated at the battle of Sedan. Napoleon III was captured and exiled to England. Germany proclaimed themselves an empire in Versailles.


After the Franco-Prussian War that led to the fall of Napoleon III, the Third French Republic was established. Although the political structure at the time seemed not too great, it proved to be a very strong government. This led to reforms such as the legalizing of trade unions and the creation of state schools to be passed.
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1. Who is Adolphe Thiers?

2. What was the final form of government instituted in 1870?

3. The monarchists in the National Assembly where torn over what decision?