‘Strikingly French’ : Labor Unrest, Metropolitan Politics, and Martinique at the Turn of the Century

By Christopher Church

In February of 1900, the colony of Martinique experienced its first general strike, which was in turn mobilized in Paris by those on the left and right as they struggled for control of the French Chamber of Deputies. Socialists sought leverage in their struggle to oust “bourgeois” elements from the government; moderates and reformists used the strike to highlight issues of administrative misconduct within the metropole; and the right took the occasion to question the social ideals of the Republic and discredit the Waldeck-Rousseau coalition government. Growing civil unrest at the hands of a failing sugar economy on the distant island of Martinique was nearly sufficient to topple the government at home, as debates readily turned toward labor unrest within the metropole. As this paper demonstrates, the old colony of Martinique and its social concerns participated in and helped shape a fin-de-siècle France riddled with parliamentary infighting and rising demands for social equality.

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