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Fourth Republic (1946–58)

Subject History

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


At the end of the Second World War in France a provisional government under Charles de Gaulle was formed. When a referendum in October 1945 showed that French people did not want a revival of the Third Republic, a Constituent Assembly was elected to draft a new constitution. It did not favour a strong executive, as he wanted, so de Gaulle resigned in January 1946. A new constitution was finally approved by a referendum in October 1946. The instability of governments (there were 23 under the new constitution) seemed as bad as in the Third Republic but there was in fact considerable ministerial continuity, as Prime Ministers needed to keep the support of parties which had backed the previous government: now governments retained on average three-quarters of the members of their predecessors. Communists, as leading members of the Resistance, were members of the government until 1947, when they were dismissed for supporting a strike at the nationalized Renault car factory. In opposition the PCF (Communist Party) remained one of the largest parties but became increasingly hostile to the Fourth Republic as the cold war developed and it followed a pro-Soviet line at odds with that of successive French governments. As the Gaullist RPF (Rally of the French People) was also unremittingly opposed to the Republic, the SFIO (Socialist Party), MRP (a Christian Democratic party) and the Radicals ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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