Empire, Second

   The government of France from December 2, 1852, to September 4, 1870. Like the first empire, this regime was the product of a revolution (see revolution of 1848), in this case, the one that had established the second Republic. This was followed by the suppression of the opposition and by the Constitution of January 1852, which strengthened the executive power at the expense of the legislative. A plebiscite (November 21, 1852) allowed the reestablishment of the empire under napoléon ш. It would begin for France a period of great economic development, especially in agriculture, industry, banking, trade, and communications. Important urban transformation occurred (see george haussmann) in paris, lyon, and other cities.) The development of industrial capitalism and economic liberalism (free-trade treaties, especially with Great Britain in 1860) were accompanied by social changes (the increase in the standard of living of the working classes) and new ideologies (realism, positivism, socialism). From the political point of view, the imperial regime evolved from an authoritarian one during the period 1852 to 1860 (the strengthening of personal powers, limitations of certain public and private freedoms, the oath of loyalty required of officials, control of education, and especially after the assassination attempt on Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte by felice orsini, the suppression of the opposition), to a somewhat more liberal one after 1860 (the right of free speech and assembly, the right to strike, etc.), and finally to a parliamentary regime (1869-70). But this political evolution, rather than consolidating the government's power, favored instead the development of a republican and socialist opposition. The second Empire had certain military achievements (the Crimean war, 1854-56; the campaign in Italy, 1859) and pursued a policy of colonial expansion (North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Syria and the Near East, and the Far East), but certain difficulties (the Roman Question concerning the Pope's authority in the Papal states) or military (Mexico, 1860-67) and diplomatic setbacks (notably in relations with Prussia) contributed to growing opposition at home. Finally, the regime collapsed after the initial defeats (Sedan, September 2, 1870) at the beginning of the franco-prussian war. See also napoléon III.

France. A reference guide from Renaissance to the Present . 1884.

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