Louis Adolphe Thiers

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Thiers, Louis Adolphe

 

Born Apr. 14, 1797, in Marseille; died Sept. 3,1877, in Saint-Germain-en-Laye. French state figure and historian. Member of the Académie Française (1833).

In 1821, Thiers left Aix-en-Provence, where he had worked as a lawyer, for Paris, where he began contributing to liberal bourgeois newspapers. In 1830, he founded the newspaper the National in collaboration with A. Carrel and F. Mignet, a close friend of Thiers who shared his political views. In the same year, Thiers helped Louis Philippe to become king and was rewarded by being made a member of the Council of State. On the eve of the July Revolution of 1830, Thiers was one of the leaders of the liberal bourgeois opposition; after the revolution he became a reactionary bourgeois politician. Serving as minister of the interior for most of the period between 1832 and 1836, he organized the bfutal suppression of republican uprisings in 1834 in Lyon, Paris, and other cities. In 1836 and 1840, he held the posts of premier and minister of foreign affairs simultaneously.

During the February Revolution of 1848, Louis Philippe tried to place Thiers at the head of the government. In June, Thiers was elected a deputy to the Constituent Assembly. During the June Days of 1848, he sided with the dictatorship of General L. E. Cavaignac, but in December, as a leader of the monarchical Conservatives, he supported Louis Napoleon Bonaparte for president. Thiers spoke out in the press against the ideas of socialism, and in 1850 he helped to draft laws limiting voting rights and transferring control over popular education to the clergy.

In 1863, Thiers was elected a deputy to the national legislature, in which he sided with the moderately liberal opposition. After the revolution of September 1870, he was sent by the Government of National Defense to Great Britain, Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Italy to persuade them to support France in the Franco-Prussian War and help mediate a peace, but his efforts were unsuccessful. In February 1871 he was appointed chief of the executive power of the French Republic by the National Assembly. In the same month, he signed a preliminary peace treaty with Prussia, the conditions of which were humiliating for France.

Parisians revolted against the reactionary policies of the Thiers government, and a revolutionary uprising on Mar. 18, 1871, led to the establishment of the Paris Commune. Thiers fled to Versailles, and after enlisting the support of German occupation forces, he suppressed the Commune with exceptional brutality, acquiring ignominious fame as the bloody butcher of the Communards. In August 1871 the National Assembly elected Thiers president of the French Republic. He disbanded the National Guard, and he spoke out against universal secular primary education and other progressive reforms. Taking the political situation into account, however, he opposed the reestablishment of the monarchy. Because of his position on this issue, a sharp conflict arose between his government and the monarchical majority of the National Assembly, causing him to resign in May 1873.

Thiers was one of the founders of the trend in historiography that acknowledges the class struggle to be “the key to all French history” (V. I. Lenin, Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 26, p. 59) but considers only the class struggle between the bourgeoisie and the nobility to be in accordance with the laws of history. In the 1820’s, Thiers published his History of the French Revolution, which was written from a liberal bourgeois point of view; after the July Revolution of 1830, he rewrote the work in an openly reactionary spirit. Thiers’s second substantial work, History of the Consulate and the Empire, is a panegyric to Napoleon I.

WORKS

Histoire de la revolution française, vols. 1–10,2nd ed. Paris, 1870–72.
Histoire du Consulat et de I’Empire, vols. 1–21. Paris, 1845–74.
Notes et souvenirs, 1870–1873. Paris, 1903.

REFERENCES

Marx, K. “Grazhdanskaia voina vo Frantsii.” K. Marx and F. Engels, Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 17, pp. 317–70.
Reizov, B. G. Frantsuzskaia romanticheskaia istoriografiia. [Leningrad] 1956. Chapter 7.

A. I. MOLOK

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