Over which period was “La Belle Époque” considered to have taken place?
“La Belle Époque” (French for "Beautiful Epoch") was a period considered to date from the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 to the outbreak of World War I in 1914. Occurring during the era of the French Third Republic (beginning 1870), it was a period characterized by optimism, unusual regional peace in Western and Central Europe, increased economic prosperity, an apex of colonial empires, advances in technology and science with cultural innovations in art, music, theatre and literature.
The description “La Belle Époque” was conferred retrospectively when the period was viewed in contrast to the horrors of World War I and its aftermath. Other countries had their equivalent periods. For example, in the United Kingdom, “La Belle Époque” overlapped with the late Victorian and Edwardian eras in a period known as “Pax Britannica”. In the United States, emerging from the Panic of 1873, the comparable period was referred to as the “Gilded Age” (1870s-1900s) as coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in their 1873 book, “The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today”.
In reality, however, large economic underclasses of the time did not experience much of “La Belle Époque's” or equivalent periods’ wonders and entertainments. Poverty remained widespread in urban slums and in rural areas. The “joie de vivre” (joy of living) was for the “bourgeoisie” (middle class), the “nouveau-riches” (new rich) and the elite social classes.