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paris commune


History Bibliography Graphics

The Paris Commune, functioning between March 18 to May 28 of 1871, was spawned by the Franco-Prussian war. Germany's victory created discontent among the Parisian workers who were already unhappy over growing economic inequality and food shortages. A truce between France and Germany created further anger among workers who now were technically under German rule as a result of the armistice reached between Germany and France. This Armistice resulted in the Prussian army sending food to Paris and withdrawing troops to the east side of the city. Once a war indemnity (compensation for damages done) was paid, the troops would be withdrawn out of the east of the city and no Prussian troops would occupy Paris.

Before the Germans had arrived in Paris, the government had the National Guard hide a number of cannons in case of future conflicts with German troops. However, the National Guard was becoming increasingly unruly, so the French government sent troops to sieze the hidden cannons. The troops, discouraged by France's defeat, joined the National Guard and the aroused workers. The Parisian government paniced when the emerging Paris Commune killed military officials. As more and more troops joined the Commune, government officials and many supporters soon fled Paris, effectively leaving Paris in control of the Commune. In addition to the troops, there were a large number of skilled workers, professionals, and political activists active in the Commune. The Paris Commune established many progressive laws including separation of church and state, women's rights to vote, and pensions for unmarried companions of National Guards killed in active duty.

Soon conflicts arose between the official Versailles government and the Paris Commune and fighting broke out on April second. The fighting intensified over time and hostages began to be taken and often murdered. While the Commune put up a notable fight, it eventually fell to the official government's army. Fighting officially stopped on May 28, marking the end of the Paris Commune. The Official government executed thousands of Communards and thousands more were imprisoned. Estimates of the number killed during the final week of fighting and the commune's aftermath vary from about 6,000 to 50,000. Although the actual number of deaths at the hands of official government forces will never be known, surely, the numbers were in the tens of thousands.


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