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Mitterrand, François (1916–96)

Subject History

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405189224.2011.x


President of the French fifth republic (1981–95). Born at Jarnac, in the rural Charente, Mitterrand was the son of middle-class Catholic parents and pursued a career typical of the bourgeoisie, studying law at the École Libre des Sciences Politiques in Paris. His politics were then of the right. A member of the croix de feu , he was an opponent of the popular front , a government whose legacy he later invoked when elected president. In 1940, he fought bravely in the battle of France and was taken prisoner. After escaping, he served the vichy regime , looking after the welfare of prisoners of war. pétain's administration rewarded him with its official medal, known as the francisque . By 1942–3, however, Mitterrand was active in the resistance , travelling to London where he met de gaulle , a man he admired but mistrusted. During the fourth republic (1946–58), he served in 11 cabinets and undertook an ideological journey, gravitating to the center-left. He fiercely opposed de Gaulle's assumption of power in 1958, and in 1965 united the left behind his own unsuccessful candidature for the presidency. In 1971, Mitterrand eventually joined the Socialist Party (see socialism ) which had recently been reconstituted. Through his charismatic leadership, he built up support, winning over members of the middle classes, and establishing the Socialists rather than the Communists ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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