New Politics and Old , 1890-1911
The 1890s seemed the dawn of a new political era. What was seen nostalgically in post-war years as la Belle Epoque, and which we often imagine through the pink and blue haze of Renoir’s late paintings, was for those experiencing it a tense and worrying time. The May Day demonstrations of 1890 caused ludicrous panic. Anarchist bomb outrages in March 1892 in Paris began a sensational and frightening phase. The fear of socialism, Sorlin notes, was ‘one of the dominant characteristics of French political life’ in this period.2 Politics nationally, for the first time since 1848, were apparently becoming structured along class lines.