In Britain the story (and the audio) of the events of 3rd September 1939 are so well known and Neville Chamberlain's moving broadcast so cherished that the it's strange that the French declaration of war some hours later is so often relegated to a footnote.
The schoolboy histories that I grew up with typically manage to imply that the timing of the French declaration speaks both of their junior role in the Anglo-French alliance and their reluctance to prosecute the war (of a piece with their collapse less than a year later).
It seems unlikely those British histories are doing much more than point scoring with the benefit of hindsight so what is the true story behind the French delay? Was there a technical reason? Was France really the junior partner, unable to move first? Why didn't the two allies ensure their declarations of war were timed together?
The timing difference merely reflected the previous difference in deadline presented to Germany for withdrawal from Poland: 11:00 am the deadline presented by Great Britain, and 5:00pm that presented by France. Both countries promptly declared war as the respective deadlines passed without any withdrawal by Germany from Poland.
The deadlines themselves had to be approved by the legislatures of both countries, and the timing differences may simply reflect the different lengths of time allowed for debate. A minimum time, probably 24 or 48 hours, would have to have been allowed after the presentation of the deadline to Germany, in case it actually wished to comply with the presented deadlines.
In The Gathering Storm on page 407, Churchill states
I learned later that a British ultimatum had been given to Germany at 9:30 P.M. on September 1, and that this had been followed by a second and final ultimatum at 9 A.M. on September 3.
Note that (according to Churchill anyway) Britain also declared war on Japan several hours before the USA did. You'll have trouble finding anyone arguing that this showed that the USA was a "junior partner".
Churchill put it down to the difference in the two governments. In the USA, a formal declaration of war requires an act of Congress. Both houses didn't get around to this until 1PM on Dec 8 (a veritable speed record for them, really). The President didn't sign the declaration until 5PM (although many argue this isn't required on a declaration of war).
Under the British system, it is entirely up to "the Government", which means the leadership of the majority party. In the Japanese case, the decision was simply made by Churchill's war cabinet, and Churchill's only formality was informing the King and his ambassadors of the decision.
Like the USA, the Third French Republic did not give its government the same lattitude to declare war that the British enjoy. Under their constitution of the time, the President of France had to declare a war, but both houses of its parliment had to approve of it. Even in an emergency, all these extra approvals take time.
The War of 1812: Stoking the Fires
On the night of November 12, 1811, the 36-gun British frigate HMS Havannah lay anchored at Spithead, a sheltered strait near the naval harbors of Portsmouth and Gosport in Hampshire, England. Spithead served as one of the principal bases for the Royal Navy along the English Channel, and the Havannah, as a member of the Channel Fleet, regularly patrolled the area, watching for French vessels from Brest or Le Havre attempting to infiltrate coastal waters.
In the darkness, the deck watch suddenly heard splashing sounds and spotted a figure in the water swimming frantically toward them. Dropping a longboat from the gunwales, crewmen pulled aboard what they initially thought was an American deserter from the nearby frigate USS Constitution, which had recently put into Spithead for a courtesy call or to take on supplies. Instead, the drenched man identified himself as Irish seaman Charles Davis he claimed to have just escaped from forced servitude in the United States Navy.
Davis subsequently recounted his ordeal to Capt. Robert Hall of the HMS Royal William, who communicated the incident to Adm. Sir Roger Curtis, commander-in-chief of the naval station at Portsmouth. In his report, Hall reiterated the pivotal assertion that Davis "never was in America before . . . he has been detained by the commanding officer of the Constitution.". It appeared to be a clear case of foreign impressment however, there is little evidence to suggest anything further came of the incident in diplomatic circles, even though procedures were in place at that time to lodge a formal complaint with the United States government. (Since 1796, an American agent had been stationed in London to investigate impressment issues and secure the release of American victims). But for the fact that a copy of Hall's report eventually found its way into the general records of the U.S. State Department—along with a few other documents about impressed seamen of British origin—the ordeal of Charles Davis might have faded into history.
The impressment or forcible seizure of American seamen by the British Royal Navy in the late 18th and early 19th centuries has traditionally been viewed as a primary cause of the War of 1812. Americans at that time regarded impressment as a deliberate and dastardly act perpetrated by a foreign power against innocent men. Although modern scholars now question the true extent and impact of the practice as a precursor to war—between 1789 and 1815, the British impressed fewer than 10,000 Americans out of a total population of 3.9 to 7.2 million—impressment nonetheless stoked popular outrage, provoking Congress into legislative action and raising diplomatic tensions with Britain. The experience of Charles Davis, however, illuminates a lesser known aspect about American culpability in the whole impressment issue. To a certain extent (and apparently not widely admitted by American officials), the United States reciprocated impressment against the British, seizing unsuspecting seamen to serve aboard American warships.
Timeline of the Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire against an alliance of French, British, Ottoman and Sardinian troops. The war broke out in the autumn of 1853 and came to a conclusion in March 1856 with the Treaty of Paris. The Crimean War was a conflict resulting in a large death toll and for many had far-reaching consequences.
February 1853- Prime Minister Lord Aberdeen appoints Stratford Canning as British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.
2nd March 1853- Prince Alexander Sergeyevich Menshikov is sent on a special mission and travels to Constantinople with demands.
April 1853- Lord Stratford sails to Constantinople where he seeks the Sultan’s rejection of a Russian proposed treaty which he claims would be a slight on the independent status of the Turks.
21st May 1853- Menshikov leaves Constantinople, thus breaking off relations.
31st May 1853- The Russians give ultimatum to Turkey.
June 1853- Following the breakdown in diplomatic discussions between the Ottomans and the Russians, the Tsar decides to send an army to the Danubian Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia.
July 1853- Escalating tensions leads to Britain sending a fleet to the Dardanelles, linking up with a similar fleet sent by the French.
July 1853- Turkish troops stand up against Russian army who have occupied what is now modern-day Romania, along the Russo-Turkish border. The Turks are supported in their action by the British.
23rd September 1853- The orders are given for the British fleet to sail to Constantinople, modern-day Istanbul.
4th October 1853- The Turks declare war on Russia.
October 1853- The conflict ensues with the Turks leading an offensive against the Russians in the disputed Danubian territories.
30th November 1853- The Battle of Sinope, a Russian naval victory which sees the destruction of a squadron of Ottoman ships anchored in the harbour. The Russian victory prompts retaliation from the Western forces.
3rd January 1854- The Ottomans receive back-up in the Black Sea as French and British fleets enter the waters.
28th March 1854- Britain and France declare war on Russia.
August 1854- Austria, which remains neutral in the war, occupies the Danubian principalities which Russia had evacuated some months previously.
7th September 1854- The Allied troops led by French commander Maréchal Jacques Leroy de Saint-Arnaud and British commander Lord Fitzroy Somerset Raglan set sail from the Ottoman port of Varna with around 400 ships. They leave Ottoman territory with no obvious plan of attack, a lack of planning that would characterise much of the conflict.
14th September 1854- The Allied troops arrive in Crimea.
19th September 1854- Initial encounter at River Bulganek.
20th September 1854- The Battle of Alma takes place, named after the River Alma. The frenetic and ill-conceived attack is fought between Allied troops against the Russian forces.
The Allies march towards Sevastapol which they deem to be strategically significant whilst the Russians go to the Alma Heights, a position offering some defensive protection, led by their commander Prince Alexander Sergeyevich Menshikov.
The French pursue the Russians up the cliffs whilst the British eventually force the Russians back with their rifle power. The Russians are forced to retreat. The bloodshed is already amounting to the thousands, with around 10,000 in total, almost half of them Russian.
17th October 1854- The Siege of Sevastapol is marked by the Allied navy bombarding the city six times. During the besieging of the city many important battles will ensue.
The city is strategically important because it is the location of the Tsar’s Black Sea Fleet, seen as a threat to the Mediterranean.
The port would remain vitally important throughout the war, with Allied forces managing to encircle Sevastapol only after the Russian army withdrew. The siege would only reach its conclusion almost a year after the first moves had been made.
23rd October 1854- Florence Nightingale and around 38 other nurses travel from England to help tend to the wounded.
25th October 1854- The Battle of Balaclava forms part of the wider conflict involving the siege of Sevastapol.
In October the Russian forces gather together reinforcements, greatly outnumbering their Allied opponents. The Russians subsequently launch their assault against the British base, initially gaining control of important ridges surrounding the port. Despite this, the Allies manage to hold onto Balaklava.
As the Russians are held off, the Allied forces make the crucial decision to recover some of their guns, a fateful choice that led to the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade.
The resulting chaos and miscommunication between officers results in around six hundred men led by Lord Cardigan riding straight into a doomed mile-and-a-quarter-long charge, facing shots from three different directions. This fateful moment in the war was memorialised by Alfred Lord Tennyson in his famous poem.
Charge of the Light Brigade
26th October 1854- The Battle of Little Inkerman
5th November 1854- The Battle of Inkerman results in the British and French holding the field and forcing a Russian withdrawal.
January 1855- Benjamin Disraeli, Leader of the Opposition, blames Lord Aberdeen and the British ambassador Stratford for their role in instigating the conflict, inevitably leading to a series of events, a subsequent enquiry and the resignation of Aberdeen.
10th January 1855- The Russians abort attack at Balaklava.
26th January 1855- The Sardinians enter the war and send 10,000 troops to assist Allied forces.
17th February 1855- The Battle of Eupatoria, an important port city in western Crimea. The Russians led by General Khrulev attempt to launch a surprise attack on Ottoman garrison, which ultimately fails as the Ottomans and Allied fleet respond forcefully, leaving Khrulev no alternative but to retreat.
20th February 1855- The aborted attack by Allied forces at Chernaya.
22nd February 1855- Russian army assault successfully seizes and manages to fortify the Mamelon (a strategic hillock).
24th February 1855- French launch assault on the “White Works” which proves to be unsuccessful.
9th April 1855- 2nd bombardment by Allied forces against Sevastapol.
19th April 1855- Successful British assault on the rifle pits.
6th June 1855- 3rd bombardment of the city of Sevastapol.
8th-9th June 1855- The Allied forces successfully assault the “White Works”, Mamelon and “The Quarries” (8-9 June 1855)
17th June 1855- 4th bombardment of the capital, Sevastapol.
Siege of Sevastapol
18th June 1855- Allied assault proves unsuccessful against Malakoff and Great Redan.
16th August 1855- Battle of Chernaya. Fought on the outskirts of Sevastapol, the battle is a Russian offensive acting on the orders of Tsar Alexander II. The plan is to push back Allied forces and end the siege of the city. The result is an Allied victory forcing a Russian retreat.
17th August 1855- 5th bombardment of the besieged city of Sevastapol.
5th September 1855- 6th and final bombardment of Sevastapol by Allied forces, the conclusion of the year-long siege of the city.
8th September 1855- Allies assault the Malakoff, Little Redan, Bastion du Mat and the Great Redan. The French make strategic gains in Russia’s defences.
9th September 1855- Russians retreat from Sevastopol bringing the siege to a conclusion.
11th September 1855- The Siege of Sevastapol ends. The Russians evacuate the city and blow up forts as well as sink their ships.
The war enters another phase.
29th September 1855- The Russians attack on Kars is brutal and lasts seven hours. They are unsuccessful.
October 1855- The Ottomans are in desperate need of reserves in Kars as they are running out of supplies. Due to treacherous weather conditions, reinforcements are unable to reach the garrison.
25th November 1855- The surrender of Kars to General Muravyov. The Russians are shocked by the conditions.
16th January 1856- The Tsar accepts the Austrian demands.
1st February 1856- Russia feels pressurised by the threat of Austria joining the Allies, forcing a preliminary discussion on peaceful terms and conditions.
24th February 1856- The Paris Peace Conference opens.
29th February 1856- Armistice in the Crimea.
Treaty of Paris
30th March 1856- The Treaty of Paris is signed.
The treaty addresses the issue of territorial disputes and redraws the boundaries once more.
Issues of Russian expansionism and the importance of the Ottoman Empire would however continue to be a feature in geopolitical events.
Jessica Brain is a freelance writer specialising in history. Based in Kent and a lover of all things historical.
Very Short Answer Type Questions
Which incident sparked the French Revolution?
The attack by the third estate on the Bastille State prison (14th July 1789) and setting free the prisoners was the incident which sparked the French Revolution.
Why was Bastille prison attacked?
The revolutionaries attacked the Bastille prison with a hope to find hoarded ammunition for the revolution.
Why was the Bastille hated by all?
Bastille was hated by all because it was seen as a symbol of the despotic power of the king.
What did the French Revolution of 1789 stand for?
The French Revolution of 1789 stood for the ideas of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.
What was the immediate cause of rioting in Paris?
The high price of bread was the immediate cause of rioting in Paris.
Which ruler came to power in France in 1774? [CBSE 2012]
Louis XVI of the Bourbon family ascended the throne of France in 1774.
What activity of the French monarchy hastened the revolution?
The extravagant lifestyle of the monarch brought France on the verge of bankruptcy and hastened the revolution.
How did the American War of Independence add more debt to France?
The French army supported thirteen colonies of America in the war of independence against Great Britain. It added one billion livres (currency unit in France) that had risen to more than two billion livres with interest.
Why did the French government increase the taxes?
To meet the regular expenses such as cost of maintaining an army, the court and running the government offices or universities, the state was forced to increase taxes.
What was the Old Regime?
The term Old Regime is usually used to describe the society and institutions of France before 1789.
Which estate paid taxes out of all?
The third estate paid taxes out of all.
How was the society divided before the French Revolution?
Before the French Revolution, the society was divided into three estates.
(a) The 1st estate consist of the clergy.
(b) The 2nd estate consist of the nobles.
(c) The 3rd estate included big businessmen, merchants, court officials, lawyers, peasants, landless labourers, servants and artisans.
Who owned the majority of land in 18th century France?
The nobels, the Church and the richer members of the third estate owned the 60% of land in France.
What was the most important privilege enjoyed by the first two estates?
The most important privilege enjoyed by the first two estates was the exemption from payment of taxes to the states.
Which estate enjoyed the feudal privileges? What were the feudal privileges?
The feudal privileges were enjoyed by the second estate i.e., nobels. Nobels collected the feudal dues from the peasants comes under the feudal privileges.
What were the conditions of eighteenth century french peasants?
Peasants were obliged to render services to the lord to work in his fields or house to serve in the army or to participate in building roads.
What was Tithe?
Tithe was a tax levied by the Church, comprising one-tenth of the agricultural produce.
Which types of taxes were levied by the states?
The taxes levied by the state included a direct tax called taille and number of other indirect taxes levied on everyday consumption articles like salt or tobacco.
Why had the peasants and workers had participated in revolts?
To protest against increasing taxes and food scarcity, peasants and workers had started participating in revolts.
Which social group emerged in France in the 18th century? [CBSE 20131
The middle class emerged in France in the 18th century.
Name the Philosophers who put forward the ideas of freedom, equal laws and opportunities for all in French society.
The philosophers were John Locke, Montesquieu and Jean Jacques Rousseau.
What did John Locke write in his book Two Treaties of Government? [CBSE 2011]
John Locke sought to refute the doctrine of the divine and absolute right of the monarch in his book.
Which form of government was proposed by Rousseau?
Rousseau proposed the form of government which was based on a social contract between people and their representative.
Who wrote The Spirit of the Laws? [CBSE 2016]
The Spirit of the Laws was written by Montesquieu.
Mention the ideas proposed by Montesquieu in the book The Spirit of the Laws.
Fie proposed a division of power within government between the executive, the legislative and the judiciary.
Where and when did the ideas of division of power within government came into effect?
This idea firstly came into effect in USA, after the thirteen American colonies declared their independence from America.
What did become an example for political thinkers in France?
The American Constitution and its guarantee of individual rights became an example for political thinkers in France.
Where were the ideas of the philosophers discussed intensively in France?
The ideas of the philosophers were discussed intensively in salons and coffee-houses and spread among people through books and newspapers.
Which news enraged the system of privileges in eighteenth century France?
The news of imposing more taxes by the king of France i.e., Louis XVI enraged the system of privileges.
What was the Estates General? [CBSE 2014]
The Estates General was a political body to which the three estates sent their representatives.
Why was the meeting of Estate General called in France during Old Regime?
During Old Regime of France, the King lacks the power to impose taxes. For this purpose, he had to call a meeting of Estate General which further on pass the proposal for new taxes.
What was the representation of the three estates at the Estate General Assembly of 1789?
The first and the second estates sent 300 representatives each, who were seated facing each other on two sides. The third estate sent 600 members who had to stand.
When and where did Louis XVI called the assembly of General Estate?
On 5 May 1789, Louis XVI called the assembly of General Estate in a resplendent hall in Versailles.
Which principle was followed by Estate General for taking vote? [HOTS]
According to the principle, each estate has one vote.
Which proposal of the third estate was refused by King Louis XVI?
The third estate demanded that voting should be conducted by the assembly as a whole in which each member had one vote. But the king refused this proposal.
In which book did Rousseau mention the idea of one person, one vote? [CBSE 2014]
In The Social Contract, Rousseau wrote about one person, one vote.
What step was taken by the third estate when their demand was refused?
The third estate assembled in the indoor tennis court hall which was in the Versailles. They sworned to draft a constitution for France in which would limit the power of monarchs and also declared themselves a National Assembly.
Who was Mirabeau?
Mirabeau belonged to a nobel family. He was convinced with the need to do away with the society of feudal privileges and led the representatives of the 3rd estate.
What do you know about Abbe Sieyes? [CBSE 2011]
Abbe Sieyes was originally a priest. He wrote an influential pamphlet named ‘What is the Third Estate’?
A Chateaux is a castle or stately residence belonging to a king or a nobleman.
What was the decree of the National Assembly of 1789?
The decree of the National Assembly of 1789 was to abolish the feudal system of obligations and taxes.
When did the National Assembly completed the drafting of the constitution?
In 1791, the National Assembly completed the drafting of the constitution.
What was the objective of the National Assembly’s draft completed in 1791?
The National Assembly’s draft of 1791 aimed at limiting the powers of the monarch
What made France a constitutional monarch?
Limiting the powers of the monarch and separating the power of administration among different institutions i.e., the legislature, the executive and the judiciary made France a constitutional monarch.
Which section of the French society got political right by the constitution of 1791? [CBSE 2013]
Only men above 25 years of age who paid taxes equal to at least 3 days of labourer’s wage got the status of active citizens and also right to vote.
Which document was in the beginning of the French constitution?
The Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen was in the begining of the French revolution.
Which rights were the natural and inalienable rights according to the French Constitution?
The natural and inalienable rights were the right to life, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion and equality before law.
What was the significance of natural and unalienable rights?
These rights belonged to each human being by birth and could not be taken away.
What was the decision taken by National Assembly in April 1792?
National Assembly declared was against Prussia and Austria in April 1792.
What was Marseillaise? Who composed it? [CBSE 2014]
Marseillaise was one of the patriotic songs sung by volunteers from Marseilles as they marched into
Paris and got its name. It was composed by Roget de L Isle. It is now the national anthem of France.
What were the roles played by people of French when fight took place with Prussia and Austria?
The French men were fighting at the front and women were left with the tasks of households and
also earning livelihoods for the family.
Why were the political clubs formed in France?
Political clubs were formed by the people in France to discuss the policies of the government which gave the political rights only to the richer sections of the society and to plan their action. Both men and women formed various clubs.
Which was the most successful of the political clubs formed in France? How did it get its name?
The most successful of the clubs was that of the Jacobins. It got its name from the former convent
of St Jacob in Paris.
Who were the members of the Jacobin Club? Name the leader. [CBSE 2014]
The members of the Jacobin club were from the less prosperous sections of the French society, for
example small shopkeepers, artisans such as shoemakers, pastry cooks, etc. Maximilian Robespierre was its leader.
Who were Sans-culottes?
The Jacobins came to be known as Sans-culottes, which literally means those without knee breeches.
What was the name give to newly-elected assembly of the Jacobins? [CBSE 2014]
The newly elected assembly of the Jacobins was called the Convention. It abolished the monarchy
and declared France a republic.
Explain the term ‘republic’.
Republic is a form of government where the people elect the government including the head of the government. There is no hereditary monarchy.
Treason means betrayal of one’s country or government.
Why was Louis XVI sentenced to death?
Louis XVI was sentenced to death on the charges of treason in January 1793.
Which period in France was known as Reign of Terror? Why?
The period of 1793 to 1794 was known as the Reign of Terror because Robespierre followed the policy of severe control and punishment.
Against whom the Robespierre followed the policy of severe control and punishment?
Against all those persons whom he considered the enemies of the republic. These included ex-nobels, clergy, other political parties members and also some members from his political party who did not agree within his policies.
What was guillotine?
Guillotine was a device consisting of two poles and a blade using which a person was beheaded. It was named after Dr Guillotine who invented it.
Which class came into power after the fall of Jacobin government?
The wealthier middle class came into power after the fall of Jacobin government.
To whom the new constitution denied the vote?
The new constitution of wealthier middle class government denied vote to non-propertied sections of society.
What was Directory?
Directory was an executive body of five members. Directory was appointed by two elected legislative councils.
Why the executive body like Directory was introduced?
It was introduced to safeguard against the concentration of power in one-man executive as under the Jacobins.
How did the Napoleon Bonaparte come to power?
Napoleon, a military dictator, came to power due to the political instability of the Directory.
What was the status of education among women during French revolution?
Most of the women did not have access to education or job-training. Only daughters of nobels or wealthier members of the third estate could study at a convent.
What did the women in France do to discuss and voice their interests?
In order to discuss and voice their interests, the women started their political clubs and newspapers.
Name an important political club formed by women in France.
The Society of Revolutionary and Republican Women was the famous club formed by women in France.
According to French women, how their interests were presented in new government?
According to them, when they got the right to vote, to be elected to the assembly and to hold political office with this step, their interests were presented in new government.
When did the new government issued laws to close down the women’s club?
The new government issued laws during the Reign of Terror in 1793-94.
When did French women got the political rights?
In 1946, women in France got the political rights.
Who wrote the Declaration of the Rights of woman and citizen? [CBSE 2011]
Olympe de Gouges wrote a Declaration of the Rights of woman and citizen in 1791.
What was the most revolutionary reform of the Jacobin regime? [CBSE 2010]
The most revolutionary reform of the Jacobin regime was the abolition of slavery in the French colonies.
List four commodities supplied by the French colonies in the Caribbean.
The French colonies in the Caribbean were important suppliers of tobacco, indigo, sugar and coffee.
Between which three continents was the slave trade carried out?
A triangular slave trade was carried out between Europe, Africa and the Americas.
Name the ports of France from where the slave trade was carried out.
The slave trade was carried out from the ports of Bordeaux or Nantes.
Why had the exploitation of slave labour done?
The exploitation of slave labour had done to meet the growing demand in European markets for sugar, coffee and indigo.
Why did the National Assembly did not pass any law regarding exploitation of slave labour?
They were fearing from the opposition of businessmen whose income was depend on the slave trade.
What the freedom mean in view of plantation owners?
In view of plantation owner, freedom included the right to enslave African Negroes in pursuit of their economic interest.
When did the slavery Anally abolished in French colonies?
In 1848, slavery was finally abolished from French colonies.
Which law came into effect soon after the incident of Bastille 1789?
Abolition of censorship came into effect after the incident of Bastille 1789.
Which document proclaimed the freedom of speech as natural right?
The freedom of speech as natural right was proclaimed in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.
Who crowned himself as Emperor of France?
Napolean Bonaparte crowned himself as Emperor of France in 1804.
What actions proved Napoleon as moderniser of Europe? [HOTSJ
He introduced many laws like a uniform system of weights and measures provided by the decimal
system and protection of private property.
How were Napoleon image taken up by the people? What image came later?
Napoleon was seen as liberator who might bought freedom for the people but the Napoleon army was seen later as invading forces.
Where was Napoleon defeated?
Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo in 1815.
How did the colonised people created the sovereign nation state?
They created the sovereign nation state by redefining the idea of freedom from bondage into a movement.
Name the two Indian individuals who responded to the ideas coming from revolutionary France.
The two Indian individuals who responded to the ideas coming from revolutionary France, were Raja Rammohan Roy and Tipu Sultan.
Short Answer Type Questions
Describe the events that took place on 14th July 1789 in France. [CBSE 2014]
The following events took place on 14th July 1789.
(a) The king had ordered the troops to move into the city. There were rumours that he would soon order the troops to open fire upon citizens.
(b) Around 7,000 men and women formed a militia and broke into a number of government buildings in search of arms.
(c) Then the fortress-prison of Bastille was stormed by hundreds of people with the hope to find hoarded ammunition. Bastille was destroyed completely as it was hated by all.
On ascending the throne of France, Louis XVI found the treasury empty. Why was the treasury empty?
The causes for empty treasury at the time of his accession were as follows.
(a) The financial resources of France had drained due to the long years of war.
(b) The high cost of maintaining an extravagant court at the immense palace of Versailles also added to the financial drain.
(c) France had helped the thirteen American colonies to gain their independence from Britain. This increased the debt to more than 2 billion livres.
Describe the divisions of the French society before the French Revolution.
Before the French Revolution, the French society was divided into three estates.
(a) The 1st estate was comprised of the Church and the clergy. They enjoyed certain privileges by birth. The most important of these privileges was exemption from paying taxes.
(b) The 2nd estate was comprised of the nobles and other rich people of the society. These were also exempted from paying taxes. They also enjoyed feudal privileges which included collection of feudal dues by the peasants.
(c) The 3rd estate was comprised of big businessmen, merchants, court officials, lawyers, peasants, artisans, landless labourers and servants. Within the third estate, some were rich and others were poor. The peasants obliged the landlords by working on their fields, in their houses, to serve in the army or to participate in the building of roads. They were paying all direct taxes like taille and a number of indirect taxes on salt or tobacco, but had no rights.
Which three causes led to the ‘subsistence crisis’ in France during the Old Regime? [CBSE 2014]
The following points show how the subsistence crisis occurred in France during the Old Regime.
(a) The population of France increased from 23 million in 1715 to 28 million in 1789. This led to the increase in demand for foodgrains.
(b) When the production of foodgrains could not keep pace with the growing demand, the price of bread which was the staple food increased rapidly.
(c) On the other hand, the wages could not keep pace with the rise in prices. At the time of drought or hail, harvest reduced and things got worsed. Thus, the gap between the poor and the rich widened and this led to the subsistence crisis.
Describe the middle class in three points. [CBSE 2013]
The following points describe the middle class in French society.
(a) The middle class was a social group that emerged in France in the 18th century. This class made money through an expanding overseas trade and by manufacturing goods like woollen and silk textiles.
(b) The middle class, along with merchants and manufacturers, included professionals like lawyers and administrative officials.
(c) All these people were educated believed that no group in society should be privileged by birth and a person’s position in society should be based on his merit.
What was the tennis court oath? [HOTS]
The third estate representatives viewed themselves as spokesmen for the whole French nation. They
assembled in the hall of an indoor tennis court in the grounds of Versailles on 20 June 1789. There
they declared themselves as a National Assembly.
Explain the turmoil in France while the National Assembly was busy at Versailles.
While the National Assembly was busy at Versailles drafting the constitution, the rest of France seethed with turmoil in the following ways.
(a) A severe winter had meant a bad harvest, resulting in rising price of bread thus, the situation was exploited by bakers and hoarded supplies. Angry women stormed into the shops after standing for long hours in bakery queues.
(b) The army was ordered by the king to more into the city. There were rumours that army would be ordered to open fire upon the citizens. Thousands of agitated people gathered and decided to form a militia.
(c) They broke into a number of government buildings in search of arms. They distroyed the prison of Bastille on 14 July 1789.
How did peasants protest against the feudal lords or nobles of France?
Peasants protested against the feudal lords or nobles in the following ways.
(a) In the countryside there were rumours spread from village to village that the lords of the manor had hired hands of brigands who were on their way to destroy the ripe crops. Caught in frenzy of fear, peasants in several districts seized hoes and pitchforks and attacked Chateaux.
(b) They looted hoarded grain and burnt down documents containing records of manorial dues.
(c) A large number of nobles fled from their homes, many of them migrating to the neighouring countries.
How was the National Assembly recognised and how did it start exercising its powers? [CBSE 2010]
Faced with revolting people, Louis XVI recognised the National Assembly and accepted that his
powers would from now on be checked by the constitution.
National Assembly started exercising its power in the following ways.
(a) On the night of 4 August, 1789, the Assembly passed the law for abolishing feudal system of obligations and taxes, the clergy members were also forced to give up their privileges.
(b) Tithes were abolished and lands owned by the Church were seized and all this resulted in acquiring assets worth at least 2 billion livres.
Describe how the new political system of constitutional monarchy worked practice in France. [CBSE 2014]
The new political system of constitutional monarchy in France worked in the following manner:
The constitution of 1791 had given the power to make laws to the National Assembly, that was indirectly elected by a group of electors voted by the citizens who had chosen the assembly.
The right to vote was given to men above 25 years of age, who paid taxes equal to at least 3 days of a labourer’s wage, were given the status of active citizens, i.e., they were entitled to vote.
The remaining men and all women were classed as passive citizens. To qualify as an elector and as a member of the assembly, a man had to belong to the highest bracket of taxpayers.
Write a short note on national and inalienable rights.
The constitution of France began with a Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens. Rights ‘ such as right to life, freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, equality before law were established as natural and inalienable rights i.e., they belong to each human being by birth and could not be taken away. It is the duty of the state to protect each citizen’s natural rights.
List and explain the successful achievements of the National Assembly from 1789-1791. [HOTS]
The successful achievements of the National Assembly from 1789-1791 were as follows:
(a) One of the most successful achievements of the National Assembly was the adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen which upheld the equality of all before law, eligibility of all for public offices, freedom from arrest or punishment without a proven cause and right to freedom of speech and expression.
(b) It also laid emphasis that the burden of taxation must be borne by all without any distinction and so nobles and clergy were denied special privileges.
(c) A new constitution was formed providing a constitutional monarchy where the powers of the monarch are limited and the legislative powers are given to the National Assembly.
Write a short note on Marseillaise.
Marseillaise is the national anthem of France. It was written by Roget de L ‘Isle during the French Revolution. It aroused such enthusiasm that large number of people joined the company. It was first sung in Paris when the Marseilles battalion sang it as they marched into Paris and thus it was named so.
Who were Jacobins? What was their role in emergence of France as a Republic?
Who were the Jacobins? Write about it in three points. [CBSE 2013]
Jacobins were the most radical and ruthless of the political groups formed in the wake of the French Revolution. They were the members of a democratic club established in 1789. Jacobins were led by Maximilian Robespierre. Angered by the short supplies and high prices of foodgrains Jacobins stormed the Palace of the Tuileries.
The king’s guards were killed and the king was held hostage for several hours. The assembly later, voted to imprison the royal family. Elections were held in which every man of 21 years and above got the right to vote. The Convention was known as newly elected assembly, which abolished monarchy and declared France a republic.
What do you mean by Directory? Why was it removed from France?
The Directory was a five-member committee which governed France when the political power
was passed into the hands of the wealthier middle class. It was meant as a safeguard against the
concentration of power in the hands of one-man executive as under the Jacobins.
The Directors often clashed with the legislative councils who in turn sought to dismiss them. This led to political instability of Directory in France. It paved the way for the rise of a military dictator called Napoleon Bonaparte.
Evaluate the role of women in France before the revolution.
Women played a very significant role in France before the French Revolution. They played an active role and brought about important changes. They worked for their living like dress makers, laundry workers, flower vendors, fruit and vegetable vendors. Sometimes they also worked as maid servants for rich people. They cooked food, fetched water and stood in queues for bread. In order to discuss – and voice their interests women started their own political clubs and newspapers. One of the major demand was right to vote. The Society of Revolutionary and Republican Women was one such club formed by women.
How did the women suffer in France during the Old Regime?
During the Old Regime, most women worked to earn a living. They worked as seamstresses or laundresses or domestic servants in the houses of rich people. Many sold fruits, flowers and vegetables at the market to earn money.
(b) Most of them were not educated or trained to do any job. Only the daughters of rich people could study.
(c) Working women had to take care of their families too. They had to fetch water, queue up for bread, cook and look after the children.
Therefore, it can be said that women suffered a lot during the Old Regime.
What was the condition of slave trade in the seventeenth century?
The conditions of slaves during salve labour was as follows:
(a) As the slave trade began in seventeenth century, the slaves were bought from local chieftians.
(b) After branding and shackling, the slaves were packed tightly into ships for the three-month long voyage across the Atlantic to the Caribbean.
(c) At the African coast, they were sold to plantation owners.
How did storming of Bastille became the main cause of the French Revolution? [CBSE 2014]
Storming of Bastille became the main cause of the French Revolution because of the following
(a) While the National Assembly was busy at Versailles drafting a constitution, the rest of France faced turmoil. Due to bad harvest, price of bread increased.
(b) This situation worsened when the bakers started hoarding supplies.
(c) Women who stood in queues at the bakery stormed the shops. At the same time the king had ordered troops to move into Paris.
As a result on 14 July the angry crowd stormed and destroyed Bastille. It was hated by all as it stood for the despotic powers of the king.
Long Answer Type Questions
Discuss the main causes of the French Revolution. [HOTS]
The following are the main causes of French Revolution:
(a) Despotic rule of Louis XVI. Long years of wars and extravagance of the king led to financial crises in France. This forced king to increase taxes mostly paid by the.third estate. It created chaos in the society.
(b ) Privileges and Burdens of the French Society. First and the second estate had certain privileges by birth. The first two estates were comprised of the clergy and nobility which was 10% of the total population. Rest of the 90% population made up the third estate that paid all the various direct and indirect taxes. This discrimination led to the revolution by the 3rd estate.
(c) Rising prices. The population of France had increased. This resulted into more demand of foodgrains. So, the price of bread rose rapidly, the poor were not able to buy the high-priced bread. So, the gap between the rich and poor widened.
(d) Inspiration by the Philosophers. The philosophers like Locke, Rousseau and Montesquieu spread the ideas of having a society where the people enjoy freedom, equal laws and equal opportunities. They inspired the people of France to realise their dreams.
(e) Role of Middle class. Another major cause was the role of the middle class who earned their wealth through expanding trade of manufactured goods, being exported.
(f) Storming of Bastille prison. During the political turmoil, France experienced severe winters leading to bad harvest. The price of bread increased, as the stocks were hoarded in the market. Angry women attacked the shops. At the same time troops were ordered into Paris. Agitated crowd stormed and destroyed Bastille prison administrative officials, i.e., those who were educated. They believed that no person in the society should be privileged by birth.
Explain the events/incidents which led to the outbreak of French Revolution. [CBSE 2014]
The following events/incidents led to the outbreak of the French Revolution:
(a) Meeting of the Estate General. On 5 May 1789, Louis XVI had called a meeting of Estate General to increase the taxes. Representatives of all the three estates came. But the members of the 3rd estate were made to stand while women, peasants, artisans and women were not allowed entry to the assembly.
(h) Demand for one vote one person. The third estate at the meeting of the Estate General demanded one vote for each member. This demand was rejected by the king and the members of the third estate walked out in protest.
(c) Meeting of the newly-formed National Assembly. Since the members of the third estate were more, they considered themselves the voice of the people/whole nation. They assembled in the indoor tennis court of Versailles and declared themselves as the ‘National Assembly’. They believed in removing the feudal privileges of the nobles and clergy.
(d) Winters created worse situation. Harvest declined, prices rose and bakers exploited poor by hoarding supplies. Angry crowd stormed the shops.
(e) Revolt in the countryside by the peasants. There were rumours that their ripe crops would be destroyed by the lords hired bands. The peasants in several districts seized hoes and pitchforks and attacked manors of the lords. They looted the hoarded grains and burnt the documents containing the records of manorial dues.
How did philosophers influence the thinking of the people of France? [CBSE 2012, 2014]
The philosophers influenced the thinking of the people of France in the following ways:
(a) Philosophers such as John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau put forward ideas envisaging a society based on freedom and equal laws and opportunities for all.
(b) In Two Treatises of Government, John Locke sought to refute the doctrine of the divine and absolute rights of the monarch.
(c) His ideas were carried forward by Rousseau as he was proposing a form of government based on social contract between the people and their representatives.
(d) In The Spirit of the Laws, Montesquieu proposed a division of power within the government between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary.
(e) The ideas of these philosophers were discussed intensively in salons and coffee-houses and were spread among people through books and newspapers.
Explain the features of the constitution of France drafted in 1791. [CBSE 2015]
(a) The constitution of 1791 was the first written constitution in France, created after the collapse
of the absolute rule.
(b) Its main aim was to limit the powers of the monarch.
(c) Powers were then divided/separated and assigned to different institutions like legislative, executive and judiciary.
(d) According to this, active citizens of France elected electors who inturn voted to elect the National Assembly.
(e) Not all citizens had the right to vote. Only men of 25 years of age who paid taxes equal to atleast three days of a labourer’s wage. They were called active citizens.
(f) The remaining men and all women were called the passive citizens.
(g) The National Assembly controlled the king. France became constitutional monarchy. (any five points)
List down the political symbols of France.
Most of the people (i.e. men and women) in the 18th century. France could not read and write. So
images and symbols instead of printed books were used to communicate ideas. These symbols were
used to convey the content of declaration of rights. The important symbols were:
(a) Broken Chains: Chains were used to restrain the slaves from running away. Broken chains signify the act of becoming free.
(b) A bundle of rods: It was used to convey the message that strength lies in unity.
(c) The eye within or triangle radiating light: The all-seeing eye stands for knowledge. The rays of the sun will drive away the dark clouds of ignorance.
(d) Sceptre: It symbolises royal power.
(e) Snake bitting its tail to form a ring: A symbol of eternity. The ring has neither beginning nor end.
(f) Red phrygian cap: It was worn by slaves when they were freed.
(g) Blue-white-red: These are the national colours of France.
(h) The winged woman: Personification of the law.
(i) The law tablet: The law is same for all and all are equal before it. (any five points)
Explain the “Reign of Terror” in brief. [CBSE 2015]
The following points explain the Reign of Terror:
(a) The period from 1793 to 1794 is called the Reign of Terror because Robespierre followed a policy of severe control and punishment. Ex-nobles, clergy, members of other political parties and even the members of his own party, who did not agree with his methods, were arrested, imprisoned and guillotined.
(b) Laws were issued by Robespierre’s government lows were issued by placing a maximum ceiling of wages and prices. Meat and bread were rationed.
(c) Peasants were forced to transport their grain to the cities and sell it at prices fixed by the government. The use of more expensive white flour was forbidden all citizens were required to eat the equality bread.
(d) Equality was also sought to be practised through forms of speech and address. Instead of the traditional Sir and Madam, French men and women were addressed as citizen.
(e) Churches were shut down and their buildings converted into barracks or offices. Finally, Robespierre was convicted by a court in July 1794, arrested and the next day, sent to the guillotine.
How did the Revolution affect the everyday life of the French people? Discuss. [HOTS]
(a) Revolutionary ideas of equality and liberty transformed the clothes people wore, the language they spoke and books they read.
(b) With the abolition of censorship in 1789 and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen in 1791, freedom of speech became a natural right. This led to the growth of newspapers, books, pamphlets and printed pictures.
(c) Freedom of the press enabled voicing of opinions and counter options.
(d) Art flourished in the form of paintings, plays, songs and festive processions.
(e) Visual and oral art form enabled even the common man who could not read and write to relate with the ideas of liberty, equality and justice.
Write a short note on Napoleon Bonaparte.
(a) Napoleon came to power as a result of unstable directory that ruled France. Due to weak directory Napoleon got on opportunity to rise to political power. In 1804, he crowned himself as the Emperor of France.
(b) He set out to conquer the neighbouring countries defeating the dynasties and putting his own relatives/members of his family.
(c) He was seen as a moderniser of Europe. He brought out many laws such as protection of private property and a uniform system of weights and measures provided by the decimal system.
(d) He was also seen by many as a liberator who will bring freedom to the people.
(e) Very soon his army came to be viewed everywhere as invading force. He carried out military campaigns and invasion of Russia and Spain. He soon became a threat for the kings in Europe who decided to come together and defeat him. Finally, he was defeated at Waterloo in 1815.
What was the impact of French Revolution on France?
(a) French Revolution marked the end of absolute monarchy and paved the way for the republican government.
(b) It also helped to uphold the theory of popular sovereignty and laid the foundations of democratic principles, i.e., to say that the government should be based on the consent of the governed.
(c) The slogans of equality, liberty and fraternity became the watchwords of freedom loving people all over the world.
(d) Feudalism and serfdom were abolished and the power of clergy curbed.
(e) People were given the right to vote during the Jacobins.
(f) New reforms were introduced in education of girls during Jacobins time.
(g) Napoleon also reformed legal system by reorganising it and brought a progressive legal system. He also introduced economic reforms like fair tax system, increased trade and development of French luxury industries fashions, films, perfumes, etc. (any five points)
Three items A, B and C are shown on the outline map of France. Identify these items with the help of following information and write their correct names on the lines marked on the map:
A. A place where fortress-prison was stormed by the people in 1789.
B. A port of France related to slave trade.
C. The National Anthem of France got its name from the name of this place.
D. Center of peasants panic movement.
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The Two Schools of Defense
The first school, whose main exponent was Marshall Joffre, wanted large quantities of troops based in a line of small, heavily defended areas from which counter-attacks could be launched against anyone advancing through the gaps. The second school, led by Pétain, advocated a long, deep, and constant network of fortifications which would militarize a large area of the eastern border and hark back to the Hindenburg line. Unlike most high-ranking commanders in the Great War, Pétain was considered as both a success and a hero he was also synonymous with defensive tactics, lending great weight to the arguments for a fortified line. In 1922, the recently promoted Minister for War began to develop a compromise, based largely on the Pétain model this new voice was André Maginot.
Why the six hour gap between British and French declarations of war? - History
The United States was woefully unprepared for war. The army consisted of fewer than 7,000 soldiers, few trained officers, and a navy with just 6 warships. In contrast, Britain had nearly 400 warships.
The American strategy called for a three-pronged invasion of Canada and heavy harassment of British shipping. The attack on Canada, however, was a disastrous failure. At Detroit, 2,000 American troops surrendered to a much smaller British and Indian force. An attack across the Niagara River, near Buffalo, resulted in 900 American prisoners of war. Along Lake Champlain, a third army retreated into American territory after failing to cut undefended British supply lines.
In 1813 America suffered new failures, including the defeat and capture of the American army in the swamps west of Lake Erie. Only a series of unexpected victories at the end of the year raised American spirits. On September 10, 1813, America won a major naval victory at the Battle of Lake Erie near Put-in-Bay at the western end of Lake Erie. There, Master-Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry, who had built a fleet at Presque Isle (Erie, Pennsylvania) successfully engaged six British ships. Though Perry's flagship, the Lawrence, was disabled in the fighting, he went on to capture the British fleet. He reported his victory with the stirring words, "We have met the enemy and they are ours.''
The Battle of Lake Erie was America's first major victory of the war. It forced the British to abandon Detroit and retreat toward Niagara. On October 5, 1813, Major General William Henry Harrison overtook the retreating British army and their Indian allies at the Thames River. He won a decisive victory in which the Indian leader Tecumseh was killed, thereby ending the fighting strength of the northwestern Indians.
In the spring of 1814, Britain defeated Napoleon in Europe, freeing 18,000 veteran British troops to participate in an invasion of the United States. The British planned to invade the United States at three points: upstate New York across the Niagara River and Lake Champlain, the Chesapeake Bay, and New Orleans. The London Times expressed the confident English mood: Oh, may no false liberality, no mistaken lenity, no weak and cowardly policy interpose to save the United States from the blow! Strike! Chastise the savages, for such they are. Our demands may be couched in a single word--Submission!'
At Niagara, however, American forces, outnumbered more than three to one, halted Britain's invasion from the north. Britain then landed 4,000 soldiers on the Chesapeake Bay coast and marched on Washington, D.C., where untrained soldiers lacking uniforms and standard equipment were protecting the capital. The result was chaos. President Madison narrowly escaped capture by British forces. On August 24, 1814, the British humiliated the nation by capturing and burning Washington, D.C. President Madison and his wife Dolley were forced to flee the capital--carrying with them many of the nation's treasures, including the Declaration of Independence and Gilbert Stuart's portrait of George Washington. The British arrived so soon after the president fled that the officers dined on a White House meal that had been prepared for the Madisons and 40 invited guests.
Britain's next objective was Baltimore. To reach the city, British warships had to pass the guns of Fort McHenry, manned by 1,000 American soldiers. Waving atop the fort was the largest garrison flag ever designed--30 feet by 42 feet. On September 13, 1814, British warships began a 25-hour bombardment of Fort McHenry. British vessels anchored two miles off shore--close enough so that their guns could hit the fort, but too far for American shells to reach them. All through the night British cannons bombarded Fort McHenry, firing between 1,500 and 1,800 cannon balls at the fort. In the light of the "rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,'' Francis Scott Key, a young lawyer detained on a British ship, saw the American flag waving over the fort. At dawn on September 14, he saw the flag still waving. The Americans had repulsed the British attack, with only 4 soldiers killed and 24 wounded.
Key was so moved by the American victory that he wrote a poem entitled "The Star-Spangled Banner" on the back of an old envelope. The song was destined to become the young nation's national anthem.
The country still faced grave threats in the South. On January 8, 1815, the British fleet and a battle-tested 10,000-man army finally attacked New Orleans. To defend the city, Jackson assembled a ragtag army, including French pirates, Choctaw Indians, western militia, and freed slaves. Although British forces outnumbered Americans by more than 2 to 1, American artillery and sharpshooters stopped the invasion. American losses totaled only 8 dead and 13 wounded, while British casualties were 2,036.
Ironically, American and British negotiators in Ghent, Belgium, had signed the peace treaty ending the War of 1812 two weeks earlier. Britain, convinced that the American war was so difficult and costly that nothing would be gained from further fighting, agreed to return to the conditions that existed before the war. Left unmentioned in the peace treaty were the issues over which Americans had fought the war--impressment and British interference with American trade.
Creating the United States Revolution of the Mind
The American Revolution emerged out of the intellectual and political turmoil following Great Britain’s victory in the French and Indian War. Freed from the threat of hostile French and Indian forces, American colonists were emboldened to resist new British colonial policies that raised issues of inequalities of power, political rights, and individual freedoms. People such as John Adams and Mercy Otis Warren believed that the British policies stimulated the minds of Americans to demand independence and expanded individual rights.
This revolution of the mind had physical consequences as Americans openly and sometimes violently opposed Great Britain’s new assertions of control. The right to representation, political independence, separation of church and state, nationalism, slavery, the closure of the Western frontier, increased taxation, commercial restrictions, use of the military in civil unrest, individual freedoms, and judicial review were some of the salient issues that boiled up in the revolutionary cauldron of Britain’s American colonies.
"The Revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington."
John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, August 24, 1815
The American Colonies
British and French colonies, with their Indian allies, challenged each other for dominance of North America on the eve of the era of republican revolution. Freed from the threat of hostile French neighbors after the British victory in the French and Indian War in 1763, Britain’s American colonies increasingly demanded rights of political and economic independence. A copy of this map by John Mitchell (1711&ndash1768) was used to define the boundaries of the new United States during negotiations for the peace treaty of 1783 that ended the American Revolution.
War on Drugs
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War on Drugs, the effort in the United States since the 1970s to combat illegal drug use by greatly increasing penalties, enforcement, and incarceration for drug offenders.
The War on Drugs began in June 1971 when U.S. Pres. Richard Nixon declared drug abuse to be “public enemy number one” and increased federal funding for drug-control agencies and drug-treatment efforts. In 1973 the Drug Enforcement Administration was created out of the merger of the Office for Drug Abuse Law Enforcement, the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and the Office of Narcotics Intelligence to consolidate federal efforts to control drug abuse.
The War on Drugs was a relatively small component of federal law-enforcement efforts until the presidency of Ronald Reagan, which began in 1981. Reagan greatly expanded the reach of the drug war and his focus on criminal punishment over treatment led to a massive increase in incarcerations for nonviolent drug offenses, from 50,000 in 1980 to 400,000 in 1997. In 1984 his wife, Nancy, spearheaded another facet of the War on Drugs with her “ Just Say No” campaign, which was a privately funded effort to educate schoolchildren on the dangers of drug use. The expansion of the War on Drugs was in many ways driven by increased media coverage of—and resulting public nervousness over—the crack epidemic that arose in the early 1980s. This heightened concern over illicit drug use helped drive political support for Reagan’s hard-line stance on drugs. The U.S. Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986, which allocated $1.7 billion to the War on Drugs and established a series of “ mandatory minimum” prison sentences for various drug offenses. A notable feature of mandatory minimums was the massive gap between the amounts of crack and of powder cocaine that resulted in the same minimum sentence: possession of five grams of crack led to an automatic five-year sentence while it took the possession of 500 grams of powder cocaine to trigger that sentence. Since approximately 80% of crack users were African American, mandatory minimums led to an unequal increase of incarceration rates for nonviolent Black drug offenders, as well as claims that the War on Drugs was a racist institution.
Concerns over the effectiveness of the War on Drugs and increased awareness of the racial disparity of the punishments meted out by it led to decreased public support of the most draconian aspects of the drug war during the early 21st century. Consequently, reforms were enacted during that time, such as the legalization of recreational marijuana in an increasing number of states and the passage of the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 that reduced the discrepancy of crack-to-powder possession thresholds for minimum sentences from 100-to-1 to 18-to-1. Prison reform legislation enacted in 2018 further reduced the sentences for some crack cocaine–related convictions. While the War on Drugs is still technically being waged, it is done at a much less intense level than it was during its peak in the 1980s.
Invading British Somaliland was the substantial force under General Nasi consisting of about 25,000 men of whom just 4800 were Italian, with the bulk being native Ascari troops. As well as this infantry force, General Nasi also had half a company of M.11/39 medium tanks and a squadron of CV.3 light tanks, as well as some armored cars.
Dividing his force, General Nasi sent the main portion, including the tanks, Eastwards along the Jigga to Hargeisa road. Commanding this column was General Carlo De Simeone leading the XIII Colonial Brigade under General Nam, the XIV Colonial Brigade under General Tosti, and the XV Colonial Brigade under Colonel Graziosi. A total of 11 infantry battalions with 14 batteries of artillery, the half company of the M.11/39 medium tanks, the squadron of the CV.3 light tanks, and some armored cars. Following, and acting as a reserve, was the II Colonial Brigade commanded by Colonel Lorenzini consisting of 4 battalions of infantry and two battalions of artillery.
Italian troops carried in trucks during the invasion of British Somaliland. Source: waridaad.blogspot.com
The second, lighter force was heading northwards to the sea at Zeila, sealing off any escape or support from French Somaliland. Commanded by General Bertoldi who had at his disposal 8 infantry battalions including 2 CCNN Blackshirts of which one was the machine gun battalion of the Granatieri di Savoia (the Savoia Grenadiers) an elite unit of the regular Italian army, as opposed to the mainly colonial forces. General Bertoldi was supported by four batteries of artillery split between LXX Colonial brigade and XVII colonial brigade. Alongside this northern column was an ‘exploitation’ unit led by General Passerone with just two battalions of infantry and a battery of artillery with the plan being, then upon the fall of Zeila, this small unit could attack Berbera from along the coast.
The third and final column consisting of a single infantry battalion, two groups of irregular troops and a single battery of artillery was led by General Bertello. They were to circle around the right flank. This force was sent to attack Sheikh Pass and then onto Berbera. If all three columns were successful, General Nasi would not only seal off any possible escape or reinforcements by land but also converge on Berbera from three directions.
The attack began on the 3rd August 1940, with the border crossed by the north and south columns with the main column moving toward Hargeisa. Here, on the 4th August, it met lead elements of the Camel Corps and Rhodesians and the Italians deployed their 12 light tanks (CV.3) abreast in a line of attack. The Camel Corps troops and Rhodesians reported knocking out or disabling three of these light tanks with anti-tank rifles before retreating as these tanks assaulted their position and overran it allowing the Italian column to resume its advance. Noteworthy here is that the official London Gazette report on the campaign states that Italian losses were a single armored car set on fire and two others damaged by rifle fire and not any tanks. Although the column advanced once more, it was harassed by British planes as it moved along the road but having taken Hargeisa allowed the Italians to move their air support up to assist in the attack on Berbera. This is presumably why the attack halted at Hargeisa on the 6th and 7th, to consolidate the advance.
The north column under General Bertoldi with the Savoia Grenadiers set the pace though, crossing the border and reaching their objective ahead of expectations, capturing Zeila. General Passerone’s exploitation force was then free to march on Berbera from the north unopposed.
On the 6th, the southern column under General Bertello reached Odweina and found the Sheikh Pass blocked by a battalion of the 1st/2nd Punjab Regiment. General Bertello chose to engage these troops only lightly with irregular troops while sending the main force he had north to attack the flank of the British at Tug Argan instead.
The main column resumed its advance on 8th August and, at 12:30 hours 9th August, ran into a delaying force comprising one company of the NRR with a machine-gun section of the SCC. The delaying tactic was a failure, however, as the first Italian tanks (M.11’s) were led around the hastily placed minefield ambush and overan the machine-guns. Unable to stop these tanks with anti-tank rifles or machine guns, the British, again, withdrew. With no weapons available to penetrate the Italian armor, a request for a gun capable of knocking them out was sent. The call was answered by the Australian Light Cruiser HMAS Hobart which sent a 3-pounder Naval gun along with 3 crew to Tog Argan where it was deployed on Observation Hill. Although not ideal, the gun could adequately deal with any of the Italian tanks although as a result of the mounting which had to be fabricated for it, the contraption had to be partially dismantled for reloading each time, with a resulting rate of fire of just 1 round every 5 minutes.
The British Home Command was aware that an invasion had begun and on the 10th was sending reinforcements and a change of command. Brigadier Chater was replaced with Major-General A.R. Godwin-Austen because the size of the forces coming would need a higher ranking commander. These reinforcements were another battalion of infantry, an artillery battery, a field artillery regiment, two 2-pounder anti-tank guns, a unit of Indian sappers, and the mechanized cavalry regiment taken from the 4th Indian Division. However, they never arrived, leaving General Godwin-Austen to command the original and much smaller force. The only reinforcements he had at his disposal were two 3″ anti-aircraft guns from the 23rd battery Hong Kong and Singapore brigade of the Royal Artillery.
Deployment of British forces at Tug Argan, 10th/11th August 1940. Source: Moyse-Bartlett
Map of the action at Tug Argan. August 1940. Source: unknown
The Italians reached Tug Argan on the 10th but did not attack until the 11th as they deployed ready for attack. The column had been led by the M.11/39 Medium tanks followed by CV.3 Light tanks and then the troops carried by a lorry. The British position was arranged with three companies of the 3rd/15th Punjab Regiment dispersed over the hilltops covering the right flank (north) at the Sawr Hills. The left flank (south) was a 5 mile long position covered by the Rhodesians and Camel Corps on a series of hills (Black Hill, Knobbly Hill, Mill Hill, Castle Hill, and Observation Hill) with the four 3.7” guns divided into pairs of two on the hills (Knobbly and Mill). With them, in this spread-out line of defended hilltops with the Indians troops on ‘Punjab Ridge’ followed by half of the 2nd KAR on Block Hill, covering the Mirgo Pass. This over-extended defensive line was weakened by a gap of 5 miles before another defended position covering the Jerato Pass, held by the other half of the 2nd KAR. Behind all of this was the newly arrived 2nd Black Watch held in reserve at Laferug. This was a poor arrangement with troops unable to cover each other with supporting fire due to the distances between positions and enough room for the Italian forces to manoeuvre between them or pick them off one at a time.
French colonial Renault FT-31 in 1940.
M11/39 in Eastern Africa, British Somaliland invasion, September 1940.
Italian Carro Veloce CV-35 serie II, Ariete division, serving in Africa, but on the Lybian front. The same vehicle formed the stapple of Italian armored forces in East Africa.
A Universal Carrier in British used in North Africa. This trustworthy vehicle was present on all fronts the British Army operated, including East Africa.
Not all potential recruits were welcomed. In 1914, strict medical exams required a potential soldier to be at least 5 feet 3 inches tall, and between 18 and 45 years old. Good eyesight, arched feet, and healthy teeth were essential. Because of the initial surge of recruits, many eager volunteers were turned down. Upon their rejection, some gap-toothed soldiers remarked that they wanted to shoot Germans, not bite them.
Early in the war, recruiters also rejected most visible minorities for military service. While many units embraced First Peoples for their skills, real or imagined, as snipers and scouts, they denied the applications of most black and Asian Canadian volunteers. Racist feelings ran deep, and the war effort overseas would be carried out largely by white Canadians.
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Objects & Photos
This is Your Flag
This is a recruitment poster for the 207th Battalion of Ottawa-Carleton, the recruiting office for which was in downtown Ottawa. The unit went overseas in 1917, but was later broken up and its soldiers sent to reinforce other front line infantry battalions, including the 2nd, 21st, and 38th Battalions, and the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry.