Paris Commune


Paris Commune
(1871)
   A socialist government that ruled Paris for two months from March 28 to May 26, 1871, following the Franco-Prussian War, and named itself the Commune in evocation of the Jacobin Assembly of 1793. The capital city of France had refused to accept the terms of peace with Prussia, which had been negotiated by Adolphe Thiers, the head of the new national government. The Paris National Guard, a creature of the Commune, prepared to resist the entry of the German army and began to station cannons at various parts of the city, disrupting commercial life in Paris. This forced Thiers to step in, causing a more general uprising in Paris. The Paris National Guard refused to back down and the government was forced to retreat to Versailles. There was a strong left-wing sentiment in Paris as shown by municipal elections, which led to the installation of the Paris Commune at Hôtel de Ville on March 20. A civil war erupted between the Commune and the Versailles government. Starting on May 21, the Commune was violently suppressed by the national government in brutal street fighting. The casualty rate was very high, as more than 20,000 members of the Commune died. Many public buildings such as the Hôtel de Ville were destroyed by fire. The Commune’s memory became a power symbol to the insurrectional tradition of the French left but also bequeathed a legacy of class hatred to the country.
   FURTHER READING:
    Brogan, Denis. The Development of Modern France, 1870–1939. London: Hamish Hamilton, 1940;
    Edwards, Stewart. The Paris Commune, 1871. Chicago: Quadrangle, 1971;
    Shafer, David A. The Paris Commune. New York: Palgrave Macmillam, 2005.
   NURFADZILAH YAHAYA

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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