Despite the fact that France was one of the victors in the First Great War, the threat that was posed by the defeated German state still lingered. It was due to this potential threat, in conjunction with the heavy losses sustained by France, that the notion of severely punishing that Germans became quite popular. It is believed that France was harmed the most from the war with 1.5 million dead and 700,000 disabled out of a population of barely 40 million. Much of Northern France was devastated during the years of conflict, further exacerbating the tension between the two states and contributing to France’s desire to seek vengeance upon the defeated nation. During this time period France also began to feel the effects of moral anguish and suffering. Even though Germany had lost territories, it still possessed a population of 60 million, which was younger than France's. This created a ratio of men of army age in 1919 of 2:1 as well as an industrial potential of 4:1, both in the favor of Germany. To worsen things France lost its powerful ally against Germany, Russia, due to the revolution by Lenin.

France's main aims at the end of the war were regaining Alsace - Lorraine and dismantling German territory, as was done to France in 1871 as a result of the Franco-Prussian war. More extreme groups in France suggest that Germany should be crippled by undoing German unification of 1866 and 1871. During the Paris peace conference Premier Clemenceau supported that, among other things, German territory should be pushed back to the Rhineland due to France’s desire to have the Rhine as a geostrategic springboard to keep the Reich militarily in check. This would not involve French annexation, but rather it would lead the creation of German speaking states probibly administered by the League of Nations. However, despite the strong efforts put forward by France for this decision its Anglo-Saxon allies opposed these plans. Lloyd George of Britain and President Woodrow Wilson of America opposed anything but temporary occupation along the Rhine with no German loss of territory. This form of opposition to a policy of crippling Germany caused France to pursue a policy of containment.

In 1919 the United States of America and Britain offered France a "guarantee" treaty to come to its aid in the event of any future German attack. But the United States Senate, worried about a continued American commitment to Europe, rejected the Versailles Treaty in November 1919, undoing the American guarantee as well as also the British guarantee, do to this France became quite disillusioned with the League of Nations. Due to fear of future German attack France turned to lesser powers such as Belgium, through a Franco - Belgian military convention signed on September 7th 1920. In an attempt to replace Russia in the east France signed a series of military conventions with nations such as Poland in 1921. France also exchanged letters with Czechoslovakia in 1924 which would lead up to the additional French agreements with both Poland and Czechoslovakia in 1925. In 1926 and 1927 France made agreements with Romania and Yugoslavia respectively, thus creating a "slavic corset" that will attempt to squeeze Germany. The problem with these agreements was that the nations of the "little Entente" had poor relationships, undermining any cooperative defense against Germany as well as giving France more liabilities and commitments.

- From author and Professor of International History at Salford University, J.F.V. Keiger

After the First Great War, France required large sums of money to rebuild, but France did not have enough to rebuld so it was expected that reperations from Germany, due to the Paris Peace talks, would be able to reconstruct France. Former French President Raymond took the postion of Premier and sent Troops to the Rhineland to pressure Germany to pay reperations, he was later replaced by Paul Herriot due to diappointment with reparations from Germany. Herriot faced three major problems: 1.) Interest on debt was huge 2) large sums are still needed to rebuild France 3) before 1926 reperations from Germany were lacking. By 1924 the frand has lost over 3/4 of its value.

One of France's security problems was losing it's eastern ally, Russia, to the Reds (Communists). Frenchmen hated the Communists for "selling out" to Germany and dumping millions of German soldeirs on the French during the First Great War, also the French believed that the Communists reresent all the evils of Radicalism in France's history (Reign of Terror, June Days and Paris Commune). At Versailles, France demanded the entire Rhineland (The industrial heart of the Reich). This would have resulted in massive loss of population and industrial output for Germany, which would forever

Treaty of Versailles

After the intense fighting of the Great War, the French were out for blood. They wanted, above all else, revenge against Germany for the massive amount of damage inflicted upon them during the First Great War. The most notable demands in the Treaty of Versailles, with regards to France, were as follows:

-Articles 45-50: These articles essentially state that Germany must cede the Saar Basin to the League of Nations, and furthermore must surrender the mineral rights to France. The Saar Basin was an important region as it contained massive amounts of coal, an essential material for the process of industrialization. After fifteen years the people of the Saar Basin would then hold a plebiscite to see which nation the Saar Basin would join.
-Articles 51-79: These articles state that the Alsace Lorraine region must be returned to France free of debt, as these territories had been lost by France to Germany during the Franco-Prussian war. Furthermore the French government was allowed to seize all property of the German state in this region. Germany must then pay for all of the expenditures for things such as the cost of troop mobilization in Alsace Lorraine.
-Economic Conditions: Germany was to pay the cost of pensions to the French soldier who were wounded, sick, et cetera as calculated by France. On tops of this Germany was also forced to give France 7 million tons of coal per year for ten years plus the amount of coal that would have otherwise been produced in the regions of Nord and Pas de Calais if they had not been destroyed. To round of these demands the French also asked for thousands of tons of other resources as well as for the amount of livestock that they had lost during the fighting.
-War Reparations: Germany was also forced to pay a net sum of 100,000,000,000 marks in a series of installments, 20,000,000,000 marks before 1921 without interest, another 40,000,000,000 marks between 1921 and 1926 at 2.5% interest, and finally a second 40,000,000,000 marks to be paid for by a date set forth by committee at 5.0% interest. From this total amount France was to receive a portion of it so that it could rebuild.

As predicted by John Maynard Keynes, these reparations would prove to be insufficient for rebuilding France. The massive damage inflicted upon Germany through the Treaty of Versailles would also prove to be detrimental to France in that it robbed them of a potential ally who could have helped them develop their own industry.

Pre-Depression Era

After four years of constant conflict, much of Northeast France lay in waste. Robbed of an entire generation of potential greats as well as a valuable source a labor, France had a difficult time during the process of rebuilding. During the 1920’s France began to prosper once more as opposed to some of the other victorious nations such as Britain. Although France had been devastated by the fighting of the war, it was beneficial in that it forced the government to spend ridiculously large sums of money on reconstruction, which thus in turn led to large-scale innovation in fields of the economy such as textiles, coal and steel. This gave France an edge over nations who were not forced to modernize after the war. This superior edge in technology, when combined with the massive economic boost that stemmed from the acquisition of the Saar Basin, Alsace and Lorraine territories secured France a place on the global stage. However, in order to achieve this effect the French government began to plunge into debt in its efforts to reconstruct. This debt was to be paid for by the war reparations that were set forth in the Treaty of Versailles. The large debt also forced the government to undergo taxation reforms in order to more fairly distribute the debt across the people. During this time period France experienced a large influx of tourism which led to an increase in the states coffers and further reduced the burden of rebuilding. In 1928 the American government cut off the cash flow to the Weimar republic, effectively signaling the end of Dawes Plan. Two years after the Americans halted the flow of cash to Germany; the German government began defaulting on the war reparations payments, and two years after this occurred the French government, who was using the money from the reparations payments to pay back their own foreign debts to the American’s for their reconstruction efforts, began to default themselves on their own loans. This was the end of the French government’s prosperity.

Depression Era

On October 29th, 1929 the stock market in New York crashed, which would set forth a series of events that would inevitably lead to the global economic crisis. One of the most important effects of this crisis was the fact that poverty became quite visible during this time as conditions worsened. Another important effect that occurred during this time period was the massive polarization of the government as people turned to extremes for results. The Wall Street crash gradually began to have its effects on the French economy, with the full onset of the problems setting forth in 1932. The collapse of the French economy occurred due to difficulties faced by the international community as well as conditions that were brought about by the French governments own decisions. Internationally, the economic slowdown resulted in a decrease in tourism, removing one of the main supports for the French economy. Also, the pursuit of protectionist trade policies by foreign nations drastically reduced the demand for French luxury items, resulting in a decrease in production and an increase in unemployment. One of France’s own decisions that negatively affected there economy was the adoption of the gold standard, in which currency can be exchanged for pre-set amounts of gold. This gold standard was detrimental to the French economy in that it caused the price of the Franc to remain high, making it less competitive in the declining global market. The effects that were characterized by this time period were further compounded by political squabbling between parties of differing opinions, the results of which were shown through a series of governments characterized by their overall ineffectiveness as well as their short life span. This general dissatisfaction with the government reached its boiling point in 1934 when the people of France attempted an overthrow of the government. The causes of this attempted overthrow was the governments own ineffectiveness in handling the growing the economic crisis as well as being comparatively less active than the emerging Nazi party in Germany. The attempted overthrow of the government was astounding in that it was a combination of both left-wing and right-wing activists who gathered together against the government. The government response to this was the police showing up and dispersing the crowds by use of force, the results of which were 21 dead and thousands more injured. This also resulted in the Prime Minister at the time, Édouard Daladier, resigning from his position in government. The next major event in France during this time period was the emergence of the Popular Front, which emerged in response to the worsening economy. This group was formed in 1936, and was primarily composed of liberals, socialists, and communists, the latter of whom joined after seeing what had happened to the communists in Germany and feared similar events in France, and in a way compromising with the capitalist democracy that they were trying so hard to change.

(1) http://www.firstworldwar.com/source/versailles.htm
(2) http://www.dhr.history.vt.edu/modules/eu/mod04_depression/index.html