The project takes stock of the current state of international research on the Second French Empire, a period that has long been misjudged. In China, however, there is a clear revival of interest in the history of France. It is therefore judicious to compare the work of Chinese specialists with that of their French, European or North American counterparts. Institutional and military issues will be addressed. Social history will play an important role, particularly from the point of view of demographic, production and consumption behaviour. The achievements and limits of "Haussmannisation" will also be measured, and the progress of education and science will be highlighted, without neglecting literature, photography, the plastic arts and music.
The Second Empire was a period of great international influence for France. The regime gave powerful support to the nationalities movement. It developed its influence in the Balkans, opposed and then drew closer to Russia, and intervened in the Ottoman Empire. If Napoleon III helps Egypt to build the Suez Canal, his ambitions also push him to intervene in America (support for the Confederates during the Civil War, intervention in Mexico). These imperialist ambitions are also colonial. France intervened in China, where Lyon's business community was interested in silk, failed in Korea and Japan, but established itself in Cochinchina and Annam, extended a protectorate over Cambodia, and negotiated with Siam. It obtained significant results in Senegal. Above all, the Second Empire developed Algeria economically, where Napoleon III advocated the "Arab kingdom". France owed this international influence to its engineers: often influenced by the Saint-Simonians, they covered Europe with railways.