Joseph Caillaux


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French statesman; prime minister (1911–12) and five times minister of finance.

Born in Le Mans, the son of a former government minister, Caillaux was educated at the Lycée Condorcet in Paris before entering the civil service as an inspector of finance in 1882.

Caillaux was first elected as a radical-socialist deputy to the French chamber in 1898 and was appointed finance minister (1899–1902; 1906–09). In 1911, as prime minister, he settled the Agadir (Morocco) crisis, but criticism over his ceding the French Congo to the German protectorate of Kamerun led to his resignation in 1912. He was reappointed finance minister in 1913. Following a scandal in 1914, in which his wife shot the editor of Le Figaro for publishing a number of their personal letters (she was later acquitted), Caillaux was forced to resign. During World War I he was sent on economic missions to South Africa and Italy. His advocacy of a negotiated peace led to his arrest in 1918 for ‘communication with the enemy’. Imprisoned until 1924, he had his political rights restored in 1925, enabling him to be elected to the senate. He again served as finance minister in 1925–26 and 1935. He was instrumental in the overthrow of Blum's Popular Front government in 1937, later supporting Pétain as leader of the Vichy regime in 1940. He remained a member of the senate until his death.

Caillaux's memoirs, in three volumes, were published between 1942 and 1948.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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