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how was life under Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte?

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« The Second French Empire – how was life under Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte? The Second empire was proclaimed in France in 1852, after the coup d’état of Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte in 1851, and only ended in 1870 with the September 4th revolution. Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte was at first elected as president of the Second Republic. However, the constitution forbidden him to be re-elected so he seized power on December 2 nd 1851 and proclaimed himself President for life. In 1852 he created the Second Empire and became Napoleon III. At first the Empire was authoritarian. Policies were conservative, the emperor would favor social order rather than reforms and the government used plebiscite to give an illusion of democracy when the decisions were already made. During those authoritarian days the Empire thrived. After years of political instability, order allowed the French economy to flourish, production doubled, foreign trade tripled, there was a high demand for French goods and French enterprises were thriving and even transcended frontiers. A new banking system appeared as well as the first investment banks, for instance the Péreire brothers’ Crédit Mobilier. This economic growth was helped by the economic boom in Europe and the development of steam power but we can still give Napoleon’s government some credit for giving a stable environment for the growth. Nevertheless, it came at a cost. Indeed, in order to allow economic growth, the country needed order. Napoleon reinforced the police and arrested a large number of people including political opponents. There was a strict censorship of the press to ensure social order, however, literature still circulated in secret: this is the case, for example, of Victor Hugo’s “Napoleon Le Petit” in which he criticized the lack of freedom of the French Second Empire. Therefore, many chose exile, such as Victor Hugo, Edgar Quinet or Jeanne Deroin, in fear of being arrested. Concerning foreign policy, Napoleon tried to gain the recognition of other European monarchs by taking part in the Crimean War, which he came out as victorious and restored the Franco-British entente. In 1859, Napoleon began liberalizing the Empire, the press had more freedom and the Corps Législatif a little bit more power. The Emperor got Nice and Savoy back, therefore breaking the encirclement of France. He negotiated a low-tariff treaty with Britain which caused him the loss of some support from businessmen. During the years that followed, Napoleon continued to adopt liberalizing reforms like investing in education and giving more rights to the workers. At that time, the opposition took every chance they could to try and weakened the government and the downward turn in the economy and the few foreign policy mistakes played in their favor, like the involvement of France in Mexico for example. It was followed by many defeats and the beginning of the end began with the Franco-Prussian War which led to the September 4th revolution. After being humiliated by Prussia, Napoleon abdicated. It was the start of the Third Republic. One of the main achievements of the Second Empire was the modernization of Paris, bringing clean water, lighting up the streets and providing schools, parks, hospitals, asylums, prisons, and administrative buildings for the inhabitants of the city. Napoleon entrusted this task to his administrator, Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann. His goal was to reshape the whole city and for that he destroyed the narrow streets that once served the revolutionaries to replace them with wide boulevard, he even got the nickname “the demolisher”. However, these urban renovations came with a price, many citizens had to move out of their homes, and as the wealthy quickly found their place with those new fashionable apartments, the poor suffered from these new renovations. »

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