Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Chaban-Delmas, Jacques Pierre Michel (1915–2000)

French resistance figure, politician, president of the National Assembly (1958–1969, 1978–1981, 1986–1988), and prime minister (1969–1972). Born in Paris on 7 March 1915, Jacques Chaban-Delmas studied law and political science and in the 1930s worked as a journalist. In 1938 he joined the army and in 1940, following France's defeat, joined General Charles de Gaulle's Free French movement, using the code name "Chaban." As an advisor to de Gaulle and representative on military and economic matters, Chaban-Delmas was a staunch proponent of French economic modernization, especially in the industrial sector.

In 1946 Chaban-Delmas was elected to France's Chamber of Deputies, and he also served as mayor of Bordeaux for nearly fifty years (1947–1995). Although an ideological Gaullist, his party affiliation was Radical Socialist, the Center-Left party that had dominated the French Third Republic (1870–1940) and that, like the equally politically volatile Fourth Republic (1944–1958), concentrated state power in the hands of governments drawn from the National Assembly.

The wars and crises over decolonization, especially those in Indochina and Algeria, led to the creation of the Fifth Republic in 1958, which designated a more powerful role for the executive branch of government, especially in foreign relations. In his role as president of the National Assembly during 1958–1969, Chaban-Delmas reassured the public that the body would retain most of its governing authority. In 1961 he visited Washington, D.C., to meet with President John F. Kennedy, conveying to him President de Gaulle's warnings about U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

Following Georges Pompidou's election as president in 1969, Chaban-Delmas assumed the post of premier, which he held until 1972. Continuing to promote economic modernization to meet France's global challenges, he also took aim at long-standing social divisions that he saw as obstructing socioeconomic progress. Chaban-Delmas's 1974 presidential bid failed to advance beyond the first round of voting, but he remained a popular political figure, serving again as president of the National Assembly during 1978–1981 and 1986–1988. The author of several books, including his own memoirs and a biography of de Gaulle, Chaban-Delmas died in Paris on 10 November 2000.

Maarten L. Pereboom


Further Reading
Chaban-Delmas, Jacques. Mémoires pour demain. Paris: Flammarion, 1997.
 

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