Marxists Internet Archive: History Archive: France: France 1839-1850

Chronology of the French Workers’ Movement

Par: Stéphane Sirot, Michel Cordillot, René Lemarquis & Claude Pennetier;
Translated: for by Andy Blunden.


12-13 May. Attempted insurrection by Armand Barbès, Martin Bernard, Auguste Blanqui and the Société des Saisons. Barbès, woundd, is arrested; the other two manage to elude the police, until 21 June and 14 October respectively. There were 77 killed and at least 51 wounded on the side of the insurgents, 28 and 62 on the other side. More than 750 are brought to trial.

11 June-12 July. Trial of the first group of the May insurgents (19 accused). Faithful to the traditions carbonarists and of the secret societies, Armand Barbès and Martin Bernard refuse to defend themselves. Bernard is condemned to deportation and Barbès to death. Without his knowledge, his sister obtains from the king, the commutation of his sentence to life imprisonment, commuted again to deportation on 31 December.

14 October. Arrest of Auguste Blanqui and five of his comrades. Charges against the five others will not be pursued.

November. The Saint-simonist workers (Jules Vinçard, L.-J. Vannostal, ...) create La Ruche populaire with the Fourierists (H. Fugère, ...) and the “Democrats” (J. Gilland, ...) who successively withdraw. Publication will be stopped in 1842, before being continued again by L’Union from 1843 to 1846.

28 November. Explosion d’une machine infernale (Pierre Béraud).

December. Formation of Nouvelles saisons (Henri Dourille, Lucien Delahodde).


January. First edition (without the name of the author) of Voyage en Icarie by Étienne Cabet, giving birth to the Icarian communist movement, which will become more and more extensive until the decision to leave to found a Communist colony in Texas is taken at the end of 1847. Formation of the “Egalitarian Workers,” a neo-Babouvist communist tendency.

13-31 January. Trial of the second group of May 1839 revolutionaries (34 accused). Like Armand Barbès and Martin Bernard, Auguste Blanqui refuses to defend himself. Condemned to death on 31 January, on the intervention of his wife, and without his knowledge, like Barbès, on 1st February his sentence is commuted to deportation. He will join Barbès and the others in Mont-Saint-Michel.

27 April. Amnesty for missing and escaped prisoners, not amnestied in May 1837 (Godefroy Cavaignac, Édouard Colombat, ...).

11 May. Message from the French Socialists to the Congress of English Socialists.

June. P.J. Proudhon launches his celebrated maxim: “Property is theft.” Beginning of important strike movement by boy-tailors, which becomes extensive during the following months and extends to other branches of industry (Henri Troncin).

1st July. Communist banquet in Belleville of which J.-J. Pillot is the principal organiser. Anxious, the government scours all France in pursuit of militant revolutionaries.

Beginning of September. Almost 30,000 workers are on strike; more than 400 arrests.

September. Publication of the journal L’Atelier, written entirely by workers. It will appear until July 1850. Publication of Louis Blanc’s L’Organisation du travail, and it will see nine editions up to 1850. This material will cause furious debate, which will continue thorughout the Second Republic.

15 October. Darmès’s attack on Louis-Philippe. The trial will bring to light the existence of secret societies of communists.


14 March. Launch of the Populaire of Étienne Cabet.

22 March. Law limiting child labour in factories. Children under the age of eight are forbidden to work, limitation of the working day to 8 hours for 8-12-year-olds and 12 hours for 12-16-year-olds. Night work (9pm-5am) is forbidden for children under 12 years, and for all ages, 2 hours counts as three.

May. Richard La Hautière launches the journal La Fraternité.

July. Publication of L’Humanitaire, a materialist-communist journal (J. Gay, J.-J. May, Page, ...).

1st August. Beginning of publication of the Fourierist journal La Démocratie pacifique.

13 September. Quénisset’s attack on the Duc d’Aumale. His trial will be turned into a trial of the Société des Travailleurs égalitaires.

October. Following the publication of a petition by M. Carles et Mme Augusta Carles, sister of Armand Barbès, written by Fulgence Girard with the agreement of Auguste Blanqui and other prisoners, a press campaign begins on behalf of the political prisoners (Journal du Peuple, Le National, later La Réforme), which will culminate with debate in the Chamber of Deputies.

1st November. Creation of the Revue indépendante (Pierre Leroux, George Sand).


November. Publication of Théodore Dezamy’s Code de la Communauté, the most advanced theoretical work of French Communism of the period.

December. Resurgence of unemployment. 150 000 Parisian workers are unemployed.


End May. Publication of the first edition of Flora Tristan’s L’Union ouvrière de. Close to the ideas of Fouriersists and especially the Owenites, she made contact with a large number of workers (Jules Vinçard, Agricol Perdiguier ...). Flora Tristan was active preparing for a Tour of France destined to popularise her project to set up local circles of the L’Union ouvrière. Exhausted, she died at Bordeaux in November 1844.

5 July. Tocqueville’s report on the prisons, favourable to solitary confinement.

10 July. The Parisian Typographers’ Society, created in 1839, and the print employers chamber sign the first wage agreement, the first true collective agreement.

29 July. Creation of La Réforme (Auguste Ledru-Rollin).


February-December. The press campaign in support of political prisoners intensifies and is prolonged until December, buoyed by debates in the Chamber around the prison laws. (April-May).

31 March. Beginning of the miners’ strike in Rive-de-Gier (Loire), lasting more than two months, against working conditions imposed by the company. It is a failure.

14 August-18 October. French forces defeat the Algerians at the Battle of Isly and to celebrate and counter the unpopularity of his foreign policy, especially his visit with the Queen of England, Louis-Philippe grants the political prisoners pardons (remise de peine – which does not constitute an amnesty and deprives them of the possibility of recovering their full rights as citizens), while putting it about that an amnesty will be proclaimed at the time of the marriage of the duc d’Aumale. Armand Barbès, Martin Bernard, Auguste Blanqui and some 32 others are excluded from the pardon.

9 December. Auguste Blanqui, transferred since 18 March to Tours, where he remains in hospital, is given a pardon. He refuses it and it is never ratified by the royal court.

29 December. Creation in Paris of Conciliation Boards for the metals and related industries.


January. La Réforme launches “The Workers’ Petition” in the workshops of Paris.

9 January. Publication of the Le Fraternité in Paris, (Brige, then later on Savary, Mallarmé, etc).

9 June. Beginning of a strike of the Parisian carpenters for wage increases. For the first time, the military are placed at the disposal of the employers.


30 March. Demonstration of workers in Saint-Étienne, repressed by the troop: six dead.

22 May. Demonstration of clothing workers at Elbeuf for the destruction of machines which are causing unemployment.

July. Théodore Dezamy dissolves the Communistes égalitaires. The following year there are efforts to continue it.

August. New economic crisis approaching a food shortage.

30 September. Demonstration in the suburb of Saint-Antoine against increases in the price of bread; troops intervene. The rioters are to be imprisoned.

21-23 November. Grain riots in Tours, to be followed by the arrest of members of the workers’ unions (Jean-François Béasse, Étienne Bonnin, Pierre Boucher, Louis Desmoulins, Eugene Vieillefond).


13-14 January. Peasant riots in Buzançais (Indre); the crowd puts to death a landowner who had killed a rioter. Three rioters will be tried and executed on 16 April.

26-29 April. The trial at Blois. Blanqui is acquitted but refuses to be set free. He will remain in Blois until February 25, 1848.

8 June. Proclamation of the preliminary opposition of the Peasant banquets.

27 June. Riots caused by the raising of prices of the bread in Mulhouse; repressed by troops; there are several deaths.

9 July. First reformist banquet in Paris.

31 August-7 September. Popular riots in rue Saint-Honoré in Paris.


14 January. The government prohibits a reformist banquet in the 12th arrondissement of Paris. It is postponed till 22 February.

3 February. 69 Icarian settlers leave from Le Havre, to found a Cabetist colony in Texas.

21 February. The government prohibits the reformist banquet planned for the 22nd, and the demonstration which was to precede it. The organising committee obey the injunction.

22-24 February. Insurrection in Paris, which overthrows Louis-Philippe. Proclamation of a republican provisional government including Louis Blanc and the worker Albert.

25 February. Popular demonstration before the Hôtel de Ville in Paris. Proclamation of freedom of association, universal suffrage and the right to work.

25-26 February. In Lyon, under pressure from the workers of Croix-Rousse led by J. Benoît, a large place is given to workers in the provisional municipal commission. Several workshops are ransacked by silk workers and services are held by religious communities.

26 February. Opening of National Workshops to ensure work for the unemployed.

28 February. Popular demonstration assembles thousands of workers at the place of the strike in Paris to demand a Minister for Labour. Creation of a Commission of the Government for the Organisation of Labour presided over by Louis Blanc: the Commission of Luxembourg, made up of workers and owners.

1st March. Proclamation of universal suffrage.

2 March. Decree limiting the working day to 10 hours in Paris and 11 hours in the provinces. Abolition of marchandage – the recruitment of labour by intermediaries.

6 March. Organisation of National Workshops in the Seine, entrusted to Émile Thomas.

16 March. Demonstration in Paris organised by the clubs before the Hôtel de Ville to demand, inter alia, the bringing forward of the elections; the National Guard from the bourgeois districts shout: “Down with the Communists!”

17 March. Vigorous popular counter-demonstration in support of the “bearskins,” who had shouted “Down with the Communists!”

24-25 March. Restrictive regulation of work carried out in prisons and old people’s homes.

31 March. Publication of “Taschereau Document” in the revue Revue Rétrospective, putting Auguste Blanqui in the position of the accused.

26-28 April. Workers’ insurrection in Rouen is severely repressed shortly after the legislative elections which saw the triumph of the reaction. In Limoges, on April 27, further incidents occurred during the counting of votes in the legislative elections, a new municipal committee is formed under the pressure of the street, which includes several porcelain workers and loggers. Over several weeks, the city will administer itself in a quasi autonomous manner.

8 May. Louis Blanc closes down the Commission of Luxembourg.

10 May. Parliament refuses Louis Blanc the creation of a Ministery for Progress, but names a Board of Enquiry of the fate of workers, which will publish The Investigation of 1848 into Industrial and Agricultural Labour.

15 May. Riot in Paris. The crowd invades Parliament with the cries of “Vive Poland!” The majority of the leaders, A. Huber, Francois, Vincent Raspail, Armand Barbès, the worker Albert, Benjamin Flotte, are arrested.

16 May. Suppression of the Commission of Luxembourg.

22 May. Arrest of militant workers, and then of Auguste Blanqui.

27 May. The workers gain voting rights on the Conciliation Boards. Parity of representation is established.

4 June. Complementary elections to the Constituent Assembly. Pierre Leroux, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon are elected, at the same time as Victor Hugo, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte and Thiers.

21 June. Dissolution of the National Workshops.

22-23 June. Workers’ riots in Marseille.

23-26 June. The “June Days.” Workers’ insurrection in Paris after the dissolution of the National Workshops. Bloody reprisals, with thousands of victims. Troops will carry out approximately 25,000 arrests, of whom 10,000 will be detained.

30 June. Abolition of the decree of 2 March: the working day is increased to 12 hours minimum.

31 July. Parliament rejects the proposition of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon to form a Bank of Exchange.

21 August. Publication of the first number of L’Opinion des Femmes (Jeanne Deroin).

4 September. Beginning of the discussion on the Constitution (which will carry on for two months altogether), in particular concerning the “Right to work,” which is rejected, to be replaced by a “fraternal assistance for needy citizens.”

9 September. An Order in Council limits the law of March 4, 1848 on the duration of the work and fixes at twelve hours the maximum length of the working day.

17 October. Banquet for the Democratic and Social Republic (with toasts to Cabet, Pierre Leroux, P.J. Proudhon, etc..).

4 November. Formation of Solidarité républicaine (Martin Bernard, Charles Delescluze, Agricol Perdiguier, etc..).

3 December. Banquet of the Socialist Workers at the maine Gate, placed under the presidency of Auguste Blanqui, still imprisoned at Vincennes.

10 December. Election of the President of the Republic. Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte is elected with more than 5,400,000 votes; the candidate of the extreme left, François-Vincent Raspail gets only 37,000 votes.


7 March-3 April. Trial of the accused of 15 May before the High Court in Bourges. Deportation for Barbès and the worker Albert; prison for Auguste Blanqui, François-Vincent Raspail, Sobrier and B. Flotte.

15 March. Law against workers’ and owners’ combinations.

13 June. Demonstration of the Montagne (the extreme left) against the despatch from Rome on the boulevards of Paris; it is treated as an insurrection and there are many arrests. Many leaders of the republican left are detained for exile. The democratic socialist press is muzzled.

14-15 June. The same popular movements in Lyon, here a real street battle takes place, and in other provincial towns. State of siege in the 1st and 6th military areas.

August-September. Meeting of delegates of 43 associations to found the Union of the Workers’ associations.

October. The Almanac of workers’ associations for 1850 counts 211 workers’ associations in Paris and the suburbs.

27 November. A law against strikes is enacted.


31 May. Electoral law restricting universal suffrage: to get on the electoral rolls, one must have been registered in the canton or the commune for at least three years, removing de facto the voting rights of many workers.