This study analyzes the circumstances that enabled France to become in the late nineteenth century the first stable parliamentary democracy with universal (male) suffrage in Europe. It establishes a causal relationship between short-term variations in local income and the electoral support for the coalition of republican parties that represented the newly established regime. The results suggest the republican coalition won the parliamentary elections because most French regions did not suffer from transitory negative income shocks stemming from heavy precipitations. They thus raise questions about the rationality of voters and, ultimately, the actual causes of the consolidation of democracy in France.

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