Ferry, Jules

Ferry, Jules

(zhül fĕrē`), 1832–93, French statesman. A member of the government of national defense established after the defeat of Emperor Napoleon IIINapoleon III
(Louis Napoleon Bonaparte), 1808–73, emperor of the French (1852–70), son of Louis Bonaparte (see under Bonaparte, family), king of Holland. Early Life
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 in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71), he later rose to prominence as minister of public instruction (1879–80, 1882). He was twice premier (1880–81, 1883–85). Ferry established the modern French educational system with universal, free, and compulsory education in the primary schools. He secularized the public schools, abolishing religious education in them and barring members of Roman Catholic orders as public-school teachers. Ferry is best known, however, as the builder of the French colonial empire. An exponent of imperialism, he was willing to cooperate with the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck in order to secure French expansion overseas. During his premiership the French occupied Tunis, entered Tonkin and Madagascar, and penetrated the regions of the Niger and the Congo. Ferry was overthrown after a temporary French defeat in Indochina. He was assassinated by a religious fanatic.


See study by T. F. Power (1944, repr. 1966).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ferry, Jules


Born Apr. 5, 1832, at St. Dié; died Mar. 17, 1893, in Paris. French political and state figure. Lawyer and publicist.

Ferry was one of the leaders of the republican opposition in the corps législatif in 1869 and 1870. After the September revolution of 1870, he became a member and secretary of the Government of National Defense, prefect of the department of the Seine, and, in November 1870, mayor of Paris. He led the suppression of the January 1871 uprising in Paris. At the time of the Paris Commune, Ferry fled to Versailles. Between 1879 and 1883, with brief interruptions, he held the post of minister of education. He was minister of foreign affairs from 1883 to 1885 and premier from 1880 to 1881 and from 1883 to 1885. Ferry was instrumental in the passage of the laws on free and compulsory elementary education in 1881 and 1882 and on the elimination of religion from the curricula of state schools in 1882.

The policy of colonial expansion practiced by Ferry’s government resulted in the seizure of Tunisia in 1881, the beginning of the conquest of Madagascar and the valleys of the Congo and Niger rivers, and the wars of aggression against Vietnam in 1883 and 1884, which led to the Sino-French War of 1884–85.


Reclus, M. Jules Ferry, 1832–1893. Paris, 1947.
Legrand, L. L’Influence du positivisme dans l’oeuvre scolaire de J. Ferry. Paris, 1961.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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