Charles de Gaulle
(1890—1970) French general and statesman
French general and statesman, head of government (1944–46), President (1959–69). He served in the French army during World War I, and during World War II was a member of the Cabinet at the time of France's surrender in June 1940. He escaped to Britain, where he was an instigator of the resistance and organized the Free French movement. Following the war he became interim President of the new French Republic, but later resigned. Having been asked to form a government, he became President in 1959 and went on to establish the presidency as a democratically elected office (1962). He resigned in 1969 after proposed constitutional changes were rejected by the electorate. In addition to extricating France from the Algerian crisis and strengthening the French economy, he is remembered for his assertive foreign policy (including withdrawing French forces from NATO and blocking Britain's entry to the EEC) and for quelling the student uprisings and strikes of May 1968.