La tragedie de l'histoire Francaise

History is often filled with misunderstood figures damned by their actions or inactions during moments of great crisis. The history of France is deeply engrained with this  ultimate tragedy with many leading figures having their reputations distorted. This exhibition deals with these such ahistorical moments and figures from 1789 to the present.

Inept and indecisive, Louis XVI made numerous attempts prior to the storming of the Bastille to reform France's government and finances. His desire to the betterment of his people often clashed with an aristocracy who were unwilling to reform France despite it being on the verge of collapse.
Slandered as 'Madam Deficit' by her detractors, Queen Marie Antoinette became the symbol of royal absolutism. However, historians have uncovered a more tragic figure who attempted to integrate into her adopted homeland and preach moderation. Accused of treason, Marie Antoinette was executed in 1793.
Many people remember Jacques Necker, but before him was Calonne. In the immediate years preceeding the revolution, he attempted to raise taxes (with the support of the king) to deal with France's crippling debt. The nobility refused his request to institute a tax on them.
Although it achieved many things including the Declaration of the Rights of Man, the revolution quickly radicalized culminating in the death of tens of thousands of innocent people. Most notably was the genocide against the Vendeen people which resulted in the death of 200,000 people in the region.
Napoleon I restored France's position following the instability of the revolutionary Republic. Despite this achievement, and numerous others including the Civil Code, his imperial ambitions caused his eventual fall.
The Bourbon restoration in 1814-15 represented the ultimate tragedy of the French Revolution. The Bourbons failed to realize just how impossible it was to return France to a pre-1789 society. Although initially supportive of constitutional government, the Bourbons became more authoritarian and were eventually overthrown in 1830.
Algeria was France's most important colony throughout its existence. It was, in many ways, France's 'wild west', a place of exotic wonder. Frenchmen, Spaniards, Italians, and an array of other nationalities would come to settle during the 19th and 20th centuries. These 'Colons' would become the victim of genocide at the hands of Algerian nationalists who forced over a million colons to leave their homeland following Algerian independence.
France has been the victim of invasion throughout its long history but its defeat and subsequent occupation by Prussia following the Franco-Prussian War was a turning point in European history. With the fall of Paris in 1870-1 and defeat of the Second Empire under Napoleon III, France's position as Europe's foremost continental power was eclipsed by Prussia and eventually Germany.
Philippe Petain, the 'Hero of Verdun', saved France from the brink of collapse during the Great War. He was widely regarded as a national hero but shortly after the Fall of France in 1940, Petain would be appointed 'Head of State' of the new 'French State'. He would go on to dismantle France's republic and replace it with a reactionary and authoritarian state. He remains a controversial figure in French history, on one hand the military genius who helped defeat Germany after 1916, and on the other, the leader of a collaborationist regime associated with Nazi Germany.
Widely regarded as the liberator of France during the Second World War, Charles de Gaulle would become a fixture in postwar politics. Although he led the temporary postwar government, he quickly faded but the Algerian Crisis provided the impetus for his return to power. In 1958, a coup began against the French republic by the military and Algerian deputies in the National Assembly who quickly seized control of Algeria, Corsica and readied a plan to gain control of Paris. To defuse the crisis, President Coty appointed de Gaulle prime minister. De Gaulle used emergency powers to quash this rebellion and declared that Algeria would remain forever French. Within years, de Gaulle would renege on this promise and would support Algerian independence from France.
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