Long Live the Revolutions: Fighting for France's Political Future in the Long Wake of the Commune, 1871-1880

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Paris Commune
Third Republic
European History
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The traumatic legacies of the Paris Commune and its harsh suppression in 1871 had a significant impact on the identities and voter outreach efforts of each of the chief political blocs of the 1870s. The political and cultural developments of this phenomenal decade, which is frequently mislabeled as calm and stable, established the Republic's longevity and set its character. Yet the Commune's legacies have never been comprehensively examined in a way that synthesizes their political and cultural effects. This dissertation offers a compelling perspective of the 1870s through qualitative and quantitative analyses of the influence of these legacies, using sources as diverse as parliamentary debates, visual media, and scribbled sedition on city walls, to explicate the decade's most important political and cultural moments, their origins, and their impact. Within the interplay of electoral messaging, national political culture, and factional schisms, republicans wrested control of the state away from monarchists seeking to subvert the Republic, but they also sustained bitter internal divisions over the meaning of the Republic and its relationship to the Revolution's heritage. By 1880, the Moderate republicans had triumphed over the monarchists and their republican rivals but had to vigorously defend their nascent power--much of which depended on their narrative projections of the Third Republic's foundation, the assimilation of French and republican national identities, and their claims to the revolutionary heritage. The passage of a near-general amnesty for Communards, the official adoption of La Marseillaise, the movement of government assemblies back to Paris, and the designation of Quatorze Juillet as the Republic's national holiday were not simply natural consequences of the republican political victory. Rather, the Moderates deliberately undertook each initiative to project the liberal Republic's triumph, to merge the identities of France and the Republic, and to implicitly close the revolutionary era.

Thomas Childers
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