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The Fourth Republic was the republican government of Francemarker between 1946 and 1958, governed by the fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic, which was in place before World War II, and suffered many of the same problems. France adopted the constitution of the Fourth Republic on 13 October 1946.

The Fourth Republic oversaw an era of great economic growth in France and the rebuilding of the nation's social institutions and industry after the war, and was largely responsible for the development of the institutions of European unity which changed the continent permanently. Some attempts were made to strengthen the executive branch of government to prevent the unstable situation that had existed before the war, but the instability remained and the Fourth Republic saw frequent changes in government. Additionally, the government proved unable to make effective decisions regarding decolonization. As a result, the Fourth Republic collapsed and a coup d'état subsequently legitimized by a referendum led to the establishment of the Fifth Republic, which was introduced on 5 October 1958.

Founding of the Fourth Republic (1944-47)

European Unity

The creation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was first proposed by French foreign minister Robert Schuman and French economic theorist Jean Monnetmarker on 9 May 1950 as a way to prevent further war between France and Germany. Though the United Kingdom was invited too, its Labour government - then preparing for a re-election fight - did not join the initiative.1 It was formally established in 1951 by the Treaty of Paris, signed not only by France and Germany, but also by Italy and the three Benelux states: Belgium, Luxembourgmarker and the Netherlands. Between these states the ECSC would create a common market for coal and steel. The ECSC was governed by a 'High Authority', checked by bodies representing governments, MPs and an independent judiciary.

The ECSC was superseded, on 25 March 1957, by the Treaty of Rome which established the European Economic Community (which would, in 1993, become the European Union through the Treaty of Maastricht).

Decolonization and end of the Fourth Republic

Rebellion in Algeriamarker began soon after Indochinese independence. The government was initially successful in containing the rebellion, but the torture methods used by French military and security forces caused an enormous scandal when made public . The use of conscription also made the war extremely socially divisive. While French forces were victorious from a strictly military point of view, a large section of the public questioned the morality of maintaining colonies by force .

The instability and ineffectiveness of the Fourth Republic came to a head in the Algier crisis of 1958, when the current government suggested that it would negotiate with the Algerian nationalists. Right-wing elements in the French Army, led by General Jacques Massu, seized power in Algiersmarker and threatened to conduct a parachute assault on Paris unless Charles de Gaulle was placed in charge of the Republic. De Gaulle did so under the precondition that a new constitution would be introduced creating a powerful presidency in which a sole executive, the first of which was to be De Gaulle, ruled for seven-year periods. These changes were introduced and the Fifth Republic was born.

Prime Ministers

Prime Ministers during the French Fourth Republic
Prime Minister Starting Party
Paul Ramadier 22 January 1947 SFIOmarker
Robert Schuman 24 November 1947 MRP
André Marie 26 July 1948 Radical
Robert Schuman 5 September 1948 MRP
Henri Queuille 11 September 1948 Radical
Georges Bidault 28 October 1949 MRP
Henri Queuille 2 July 1950 Radical
René Pleven 12 July 1950 UDSR
Henri Queuille 10 March 1951 Radical
René Pleven 11 August 1951 UDSR
Edgar Faure 20 January 1952 Radical
Antoine Pinay 8 March 1952 CNIP
René Mayer 8 January 1953 Radical
Joseph Laniel 27 June 1953 CNIP
Pierre Mendès-France 18 June 1954 Radical
Edgar Faure 23 February 1955 Radical
Guy Mollet 31 January 1956 SFIO
Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury 12 June 1957 Radical
Félix Gaillard 6 November 1957 Radical
Pierre Pflimlin 13 May 1958 MRP
Charles de Gaulle 1 June 1958 UNR
8 January 1959


1. Dell, Edmund. The Schuman Plan and the British Abdication of Leadership in Europe. Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1995

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