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Jules Ferry


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French statesman. Prefect of the Seine (1870–71) during its siege in the Franco-Prussian War, his narrow escape (18 March 1871) from the Paris Commune left him with a strong dislike of extremist politics. After serving as French ambassador in Greece, he was elected to the French Chamber of Deputies (1876–89) and was in government from 1879 to 1885, twice as Prime Minister (1880–81; 1883–85). He was responsible for much liberal legislation, extending freedom of association and of the press and legalizing trade unions. He weakened the grip of the Roman Catholic Church on education, extended higher education, created lycées for girls, and made French elementary education non-clerical (March 1882), free, and compulsory. His ministries also saw wide French colonial development in Tunisia (1881), the Congo (1884), Madagascar (1885), and Indo-China (1885). This latter lost him support and he fell from office. He narrowly failed to be elected President of the Republic in 1887.

Subjects: History

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