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How did French foreign policy evolve between 1815 and 1914?

Between 1815 and 1914, French foreign policy evolved from a focus on maintaining the balance of power to pursuing colonial expansion.

In the immediate aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, French foreign policy was largely dictated by the Congress of Vienna, which sought to maintain a balance of power in Europe to prevent the rise of another hegemonic power like Napoleon's France. France was initially isolated and watched closely by the other European powers, particularly the United Kingdom, Prussia, Austria, and Russia. However, France gradually regained its place among the great powers, and by the mid-19th century, it was playing an active role in shaping European affairs.

The 1830s and 1840s saw a shift in French foreign policy towards interventionism, particularly in the Mediterranean and the Middle East. This was exemplified by the French invasion of Algeria in 1830, which marked the beginning of French colonial expansion in Africa. The French also intervened in the Egyptian-Ottoman conflict in the 1840s, further demonstrating their growing assertiveness on the international stage.

The Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871 marked another turning point in French foreign policy. The defeat of France and the unification of Germany under Prussian leadership significantly altered the balance of power in Europe. In response, France sought to isolate Germany through a system of alliances, most notably the Franco-Russian Alliance of 1894 and the Entente Cordiale with the United Kingdom in 1904.

At the same time, France continued to pursue colonial expansion, particularly in Africa and Southeast Asia. The so-called "Scramble for Africa" in the late 19th century saw France establish colonies in vast swathes of West and Central Africa, while in Southeast Asia, French Indochina was established.

In summary, French foreign policy between 1815 and 1914 evolved from a focus on maintaining the balance of power in Europe to a more assertive and expansionist approach, marked by colonial acquisitions and a system of alliances aimed at containing the rising power of Germany.

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