Georges Bidault Biography

Prime Minister(1899–1983)
A World War II French resistance leader who became a government minister, Georges Bidault's opposition to Algerian independence forced him into years of exile.

Synopsis

Georges Bidault was born in Moulins, France, on October 5, 1899. Bidault risked his life in the French resistance during World War II, then served as a government minister after the war. His actions opposing Algerian independence led to conspiracy charges, which forced him into exile from 1962 to 1968. Bidault was 83 when he died in Cambo-les-Bains, France, on January 27, 1983.

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Early Life

Georges-Augustin Bidault was born in Moulins, Allier, France, on October 5, 1899. His family background and Jesuit education gave him a strong faith that lasted throughout his life. Bidault briefly left school to fight in World War I, but the 1918 armistice was reached soon after, and he was discharged.

Teaching and Journalism

After World War I, Bidault resumed his studies and became a history teacher. In 1931, he took a teaching position in Paris. While in the capital, Bidault co-founded L'Aube (The Dawn), a leftist Catholic paper, and began reporting on foreign affairs. His pieces showed his dislike of Nazism and Fascism, and his opposition to the Munich Pact of 1938.

World War II

When France mobilized, Bidault requested an assignment on the front. Captured in May of 1940, he was released in 1941, along with others who had served in World War I. Bidault then found work as a teacher in Lyon (far enough south that he was not in occupied France). There he joined the French resistance.

Bidault risked his life as a member of the resistance. When the leader of the National Resistance Council, Jean Moulin, was arrested and killed, Bidault was elected president in his place. In this role, Bidault met with Charles de Gaulle in Paris when France was liberated in 1944.

Provisional Government and the Fourth Republic

Bidault became de Gaulle's foreign minister in the provisional government, signing a Franco-Soviet pact and the United Nations Charter. In 1946, a few months after de Gaulle resigned, Bidault became head of the provisional government, holding the position until the Fourth Republic's first government took power.

The Fourth Republic saw the formation and dissolution of multiple governments in quick succession. Throughout these changes, Bidault held several positions, serving as prime minister, foreign minister, deputy prime minister and defense minister. Bidault worked to implement the Marshall Plan and negotiated for an Atlantic defense alliance, which was an early precursor to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Opposition and Exile

The Fourth Republic was confronted with a growing problem in Algeria when factions that had sought independence for years turned violent and the Algerian War of Independence began in 1954. As France faced this conflict, there was a call for de Gaulle to return to government, which Bidault supported. De Gaulle came back to power in 1958. But as de Gaulle showed his support for Algerian independence, Bidault felt betrayed.

Having witnessed France's loss of its Asian colonies, Bidault was determined that Algeria would remain a part of France. To achieve this, Bidault formed a national resistance council, advocating terrorism to oppose de Gaulle and Algerian freedom. After this, Bidault's parliamentary immunity was revoked and he was charged with conspiracy. Bidault lived in exile (first in Brazil and then in Belgium) from 1962 to 1968, when de Gaulle granted him amnesty.

Death and Legacy

After returning to France, Bidault founded a far-right party. The group was not successful, and afterward Bidault played little role in politics. He was 83 years old when he died on January 27, 1983, in Cambo-les-Bains, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, France.

Bidault's service in the resistance led to his becoming a Compagnon de la Libération (Companion of the Liberation) and receiving the Grand Croix de la Légion d'honneur (Grand Cross of the Legion of Honor), two of France's highest honors. His work in government following World War II helped France maintain its status as a world power. However, the decision to work against Algeria's freedom, to the extent that Bidault supported the overthrow of France's government, still casts a long shadow over his other accomplishments.

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