The French Empire of World War One

The French Empire of the First World War

The French Empire saw the majority of the Western front fought on its soil. Whole swathes of the Northern and eastern areas were fought over with the land being damaged for many years. France was one of the main combatants in the War. It was a major part of the alliance with Britain and Russia. As such a large portion of the troops on the western front were French. The French Empire had called up over 8 million men throughout the war. The casualties were similarly high with at least 1.3 million dead and over half of all troops called up wounded in some fashion.

France had been a key part of politics and power structures in Europe for the majority of its existence. It had previously fought the Prussians in a succession of wars through the 19th century and had allied with England to fight Russia in the Crimean war. Due to the constant conflict, the French frontier defences were strong although these were relied on too much at the beginning of the war barely slowing the German advance.

Politically The French Empire had been changing through a series of republics since the revolutions in the late 18th century and at this time was on its third republic with Imperial and monarchic institutions in the intervening years. Although for about 30 years before the First World War France had a relatively stable government with the only major issue to arise being the Dreyfus affair.

The French had been to war with Prussia in 1871 in which it had lost its control over Alsace and Lorraine. Apart from this conflict, much of the French militaries time was sent in colonial duties. France had many colonies in Africa by the outbreak of World War One. Algeria was a prominent example of a French colony with the others being mainly centred in western Africa and along the Ivory Coast.

The population of Metropolitan France during 1914 was 39,000,000. The French colonies had a population of roughly 50,000,000 which meant the total population for the French Empire of 89,000,000, however, similar to the British Empire, the majority of troops were drawn from the metropolitan population.

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