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France and the world

France and the world

Alliances

After the disaster of Sedan and the collapse of the Second Empire, the 1871 Treaty of Frankfurt established French isolationism. In the 1890s, after two decades of Bismarkian diplomacy, France began to reestablish its alliances. Although the Franco-Russian military alliance of August 1892 was kept secret until 1897, neither Franco-British colonial tensions nor the pro-Dreyfus stance of both the British public and Queen Victoria could halt progress towards the Entente Cordiale. This alliance was cemented on 8 April 1904, with the signing of a declaration with respect to Siam, Madagascar and the New Hebrides, and a second one concerning Egypt and Morocco. On 8 December of the same year, the bilateral ratification of an agreement regulating Franco-British relations in West and Central Africa and in Newfoundland modified fishing rights that were established under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.

France's colonial empire

In the wake of the crisis of Fachoda of 1898, in which the withdrawal of Major Marchand's troops in the face Lord Kitchener's army was seen as a defeat, the two great colonial powers made common cause against the newly-arisen German imperialism. The French colonial empire extended across more than ten million square kilometers, mostly in Africa and Indochina. France found itself in competition with Germany, but the Algeciras Conference (16 January-7 April 1906) gave France de facto supremacy in Morocco.

Colonial trade passed through the port of Marseille, which benefited from the fact that trade doubled between 1897 and 1901, before increasing fivefold in the following decade. In 1906, nearly two million visitors came to see the Colonial Exposition, which glorified France's civilizing mission abroad. This was a concept that Jules Ferry had developed in the 1880s, at the time of the Tunisian Protectorate, Brazza's settlement in the Congo, and the beginning of the conquest of Tonkin.

The French example

The Universal Exposition of 1900, which drew more than fifty million visitors to Paris, showed France's international influence. It was also the occasion for a banquet in honor of France's mayors, held on 22 September and presided over by Emile Loubet. One young visitor, the future General de Gaulle, related the effect on witnessing "the demonstration of our national triumphs: the excitement of the people at seeing the Tsar of Russia, the review at Longchamp, the wonders of the Exposition, and the first flights of our aviators." Primers used by children across France sung the praises of the capital "of our beloved France, the most industrious city in the world, in which first-rank schools open their doors to France's children."

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