French Fourth Republic

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The Fourth Republic existed in France between 1946 and 1958. It was the period when the French were under France's fourth republican constitution. It was in many ways a revival of the Third Republic which had ruled before World War II, and as such suffered many of the same problems, such as very short ministries that made policy planning difficult. France adopted the constitution of the Fourth Republic on October 13, 1946.

Some attempts were made to strengthen the executive to prevent the unstable situation that had existed before the war, but the instability remained and the Fourth Republic saw frequent changes in government. Although the Fourth Republic oversaw an era of great economic growth in France and the rebuilding of its industry, it is best remembered for its constant political instability and inability to take bold decisions in controversial areas — most notably, decolonization.


In addition to its instability, the Fourth Republic is also best rembembered today for the controversial defense of two major French colonies, Indochina and Algeria. The ineffective government prosecuted the First Indochina War half-heartedly, with the United States' backing, until the defeat at Dien Bien Phu and the subsequent armistice signed by the Mendès-France government.

Rebellion in Algeria began soon after Indochinese independence. The government was initially successful in containing the rebellion, but the torture methods used by French military and security forces caused an enormous scandal when made public. The use of conscription also made the war an extremely socially divisive one. While French forces were victorious from a strictly military point of view, a large section of the public questioned the morality of maintaining colonies by force.

The instability and ineffectiveness problems of the Fourth Republic came to a head in 1958, when the current government suggested that it would negotiate with the Algerian nationalists. Right-wing elements in the French Army, led by General Jacques Massu seized power in Algiers and threatened to conduct a parachute assault on Paris unless Charles de Gaulle, the WWII hero, was placed in charge of the Republic. De Gaulle did so under the precondition that a new constitution would be introduced creating a powerful presidency. These changes were introduced and the Fifth Republic was born.

Prime Ministers

Prime Ministers during the French Fourth Republic
Prime Minister Starting Party
Paul Ramadier 22 January 1947 SFIO
Robert Schuman 24 November, 1947 MRP
André Marie 26 July 1948 Radical
Robert Schuman 5 September, 1948 MRP
Henri Queuille 11 September, 1948 Radical
Georges Bidault 28 October 1949 MRP
Henri Queuille 2 July 1950 Radical
René Pleven 12 July, 1950 UDSR
Henri Queuille 10 March 1951 Radical
René Pleven 11 August, 1951 UDSR
Edgar Faure 20 January 1952 Radical
Antoine Pinay 8 March, 1952 CNIP
René Mayer 8 January 1953 Radical
Joseph Laniel 27 June, 1953 CNIP
Pierre Mendès-France 18 June 1954 Radical
Christian Pineau 17 February 1955 Radical
Edgar Faure 23 February, 1955 Radical
Guy Mollet 31 January 1956 SFIO
Maurice Bourgès-Maunoury 12 June 1957 Radical
Félix Gaillard 6 November, 1957 Radical
Pierre Pflimlin 13 May 1958 MRP
Charles de Gaulle 1 June, 1958 UNR
8 January 1959
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