Belle Époque

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Carte de France dressée pour l'usage du Roy. Delisle Guillaume (1721)
The Belle Époque or La Belle Époque (French: ; French for "Beautiful Era") was a period of Western history. It is conventionally dated from the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Occurring during the era of the French Third Republic (beginning 1870), it was a period characterized by optimism, regional peace, economic prosperity, an apex of colonial empires and technological, scientific, and cultural innovations. In the climate of the period, especially in Paris, the arts flourished. Many masterpieces of literature, music, theater, and visual art gained recognition. The Belle Époque was named in retrospect, when it began to be considered a "Golden Age" in contrast to the horrors of World War I.

In the United Kingdom, the Belle Époque overlapped with the late Victorian era and the Edwardian era. It overlapped the period known as Pax Britannica. In Germany, the Belle Époque coincided with the Wilhelminism; in Russia with the reigns of Alexander III and Nicholas II. In the United States, emerging from the Panic of 1873, the comparable period was the Gilded Age. In Brazil it started with the end of the Paraguayan War, and in Mexico the period was known as the Porfiriato.

The French public's nostalgia for the Belle Époque period was based largely on the peace and prosperity connected with it in retrospect. Two devastating world wars and their aftermath made the Belle Époque appear to be a time of joie de vivre (joy of living) in contrast to 20th century hardships. It was also a period of stability that France enjoyed after the tumult of the early years of the French Third Republic, beginning with France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the Paris Commune, and the fall of General Georges Ernest Boulanger. The defeat of Boulanger, and the celebrations tied to the 1889 World's Fair in Paris, launched an era of optimism and affluence. French imperialism was in its prime. It was a cultural center of global influence, and its educational, scientific and medical institutions were at the leading edge of Europe.

It was not entirely the reality of life in Paris or in France, however. France had a large economic underclass who never experienced much of the Belle Époque's wonders and entertainments. Poverty remained endemic in Paris's urban slums and rural peasantry for decades after the Belle Époque ended. Conflicts between the government and the Roman Catholic Church were regular during the period. Some of the artistic elite saw the Fin de siècle in a pessimistic light.

Those who were able to benefit from the prosperity of the era were drawn towards new forms of light entertainment during the Belle Époque, and the Parisian bourgeoisie, or the successful industrialists called nouveau-riches, became increasingly influenced by the habits and fads of the city's elite social class, known popularly as Tout-Paris ("all of Paris", or "everyone in Paris"). The Casino de Paris opened in 1890. For Paris's less affluent public, entertainment was provided by cabarets, bistros and music halls.

The Moulin Rouge cabaret is a Paris landmark still open for business today. The Folies Bergère was another landmark venue. Burlesque performance styles were more mainstream in Belle Époque Paris than in more staid cities of Europe and America. Liane de Pougy, dancer, socialite and courtesan, was well known in Paris as a headline performer at top cabarets. Belle Époque dancers such as La Goulue and Jane Avril were Paris celebrities, who modelled for Toulouse-Lautrec's iconic poster art. The Can-can dance was a popular 19th-century cabaret style that appears in Toulouse-Lautrec's posters from the era.

This page was last edited on 19 March 2018, at 17:07.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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