France 1914-1918
War Economy
France 1929-1939
the Economy
France 1918-1929
Domestic Policy
France 1918-1929
Intellectual Life

France 1918-1929 : the Economy

The war had left it's mark on France. The north was devastated, the country heavily indebted, about 1,300,000 lives had been lost, there were more than 3 million men with disabilities caused by the war. It was hoped that Germany would have to pay for the damage, a hope which only partially materialized. In 1919, the SPANISH INFLUENZA took another 166,000 victims.
Another consequence was realized only slowly : France, unlike Germany. had not given sufficient leave to it's soldiers during the Great war, the consequence being a low birth rate in the war generation (the demographic gap).
The coal-rich SAARGEBIET region (in French referred to as Sarre) was separated from Germany, administrated by the French, economically united with France (i.e. the Franc introduced as currency) until a plebiscite was to be held in 1935.

In 1918 to 1919 the socialists experienced a dramatic increase in party membership; legislation was passed in favour of labour - the 8 HOUR WORKDAY was introduced (April 1919), as was COLLECTIVE BARGAINING (April 1919). On her congress in September 1919, the Socialist Party (SFIO) decided against revolution, in favour of multiparty democracy - the danger of a revolution in France was banned.

France experienced some inflation, the doubling of prices between 1922 and 1926, nothing compared to the hyperinflation that plagued much of central and eastern Europe. Industrial pre-war production figures were reached in 1924; the agriculture, except in areas in the north which had been the scene of trench warfare, quickly resumed peacetime productivity.
Frequent changes in the French administration caused ups and downs of the French economy. When the parties of the left won the election in 1924, France experienced CAPITAL FLIGHT - capital transferred onto Swiss bank accounts or elsewhere, in fear of a socialist policy including a nationalization of certain sectors of the French economy. The government was short-lived; it was succeeded by POINCARE who restored confidence in French economic policy.

Among the European economies, France experienced the strongest growth in the 1920es. Unemployment was almost zero, France - because of the great losses during the war, having to attract MIGRANT LABOUR (mostly from Eastern Central Europe) to fill the gaps in their workforce. In 1928 the GOLD STANDARD was reestablished (at 20 % of the prewar level, which caused dissatisfaction among bond holders). This, however, meant a DEVALUATION of the French currency, which benefitted French exports. In 1928 and 1929 French state revenue even exceeded state expenses considerably. As a consequence, the GREAT DEPRESSION was to set in later and with less an impact in France than elsewhere among the industrialized nations of Europe.

The question of German REPARATIONS was a hot issue throughout the 1920es, the French demanding 62 billion Francs, the Germans having paid 13 million by 1931. French demands were raised without consideration of Germany's ability to pay, and in 1923, French and Belgian troops, in order to press their demands, occupied the RHINELAND. This was a costly mistake, as they met a campaign of nonviolent resistance, and as world opinion sympathized with the German side. International negotiations repeatedly reduced the sum to be paid by Germany, against French protest.

Among the 'new industries were France's car makers - RENAULT (founded 1899), PEUGEOT (car production since 1896), CITROEN.(1919),

History of Renault, from Marks and Characters
History of Citroen, from Marks and Characters
History of Peugeot, from Marks and Characters
REFERENCE Roger Price, A Concise History of France, Cambridge Concise Histories, 1993, pp.218-231
W. Scott Haine, The History of France, Greenwood Histories of Modern Nations, 2000, pp.142-159
Philippe Bernard and Henri Dubief, The Decline of the Third Republic 1914-1938, (Fr. Or. 1975, Eng. Trsl. 1985) Cambridge UP 1993, KMLA Lib. Call Sign 944.0814 B518d
Article : France, in : New International Year Book 1919 pp.253-271, 1920 pp.241-259, 1921 pp.242-259, 1923 pp.254-265, 1925 pp.252-259, 1928 pp.270-276 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on March 30th 2007

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