France 1918-1929
Domestic Policy
Vichy 1940-1944
France 1929-1939
the Economy

France 1929-1939
Domestic Policy

The impact the Great Depression had on France seemed to be less than the one it had on other industrialized nations, such as Britain, Germany and the United States itself. Larger numbers of unemployed partially were prevented by the reduction in working hours, part of the struggle of the labour movement to establish better living conditions. The political crisis is indicated by an exceptionally frequent change in political administrations - 1930 saw 3 premier ministers go, as did 1932, 1933 and 1934. It seemed that no politician seemed to have a concept to overcome the economic crisis.

The parties of the left - communists, socialists, radicals, were suspected by conservatives as social traitors and thus unfit to join a government coalition. On the far right political organizations like ACTION FRANÇAISE and later the CROIX DE FEU (Iron Cross, forbidden in 1936) emerged, which like the Fascists in Italy were in favour of strong leadership, criticized democracy as ineffective, were willing to use violence to 'restore law and order' and used abusive language in their criticism of the democratic forces.
The STAVISKY AFFAIR of 1933, a financial scandal involving political figures, only gave legitimation to critics from the opposition of the far left and far right. About 2,000 protesters threatening to molest French parliamentarians were injured by police, 15 killed.

In 1935, the parties of the left (socialists, communists, radicals) founded the POPULAR FRONT which won the election of 1936; socialist LEON BLUM formed the new administration. The Popular Front introduced the 40-HOUR WORKWEEK and TWO WEEKS PAID VACATION. Other reforms intended to improve the economic situation of France's farmers, extended mandatory education; the arms industry was nationalized.
This programme, together with the atrocities committed by the Spanish Popular Front government (also elected into power in 1936) against 'enemies of the people' in Spain's Civil War only strengthened the aversion of politicians of the center and right against the leftist parties. As in 1924, France again experienced CAPITAL FLIGHT.
Mounting economic difficulties and disagreement over the policy to be pursued in the Spanish Civil War lead to rifts within the Popular Front. Administrations changed frequently, and the popular front government fell, succeeded by a center-right coalition under Prime Minister EDOUARD DALADIER.

Biography of Leon Blum, from The World at War
Article Stavisky Affair, from Infoplease
Biography of Edouard Daladier, from The World at War
DOCUMENTS Time Magazine : Pierre Laval, man of the year 1931
1933 - Paris: The Front Populaire, from Chim - the photographs of David Seymour, commented photos
REFERENCE Roger Price, A Concise History of France, Cambridge Concise Histories, 1993, pp.228-246
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
Chapter X : Daladier and Blum, pp.145-165; Chapter XII : More about Frenchmen, pp.182-200, Chapter XIII : Fascism and the Front Populaire, pp.200-212, in : John Gunther, Inside Europe, 1940 War Edition, NY : Harper Bros. 1940 [G]
Article : France, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1932 pp.844-874, 1937 pp.882-912 [G]
Article : France, in : Americana Annual 1930 pp.335-340, 1931 pp.332-336, 1932 pp.300-307, 1933 pp.331-335, 1934 pp.261-264, 1935 pp.301-306, 1936 pp.307-311, 1937 pp.302-305, 1938 pp.293-296, 1939 pp.317-320 [G]
Article : France, in : New International Year Book 1930 pp.282-288, 1932 pp.295-302, 1933 pp.280-285, 1934 pp.243-249, 1935 pp.250-256, 1938 pp.263-268, 1939 pp.286-291 [G]
Article : France, in : Funk & Wagnall's New Standard Encyclopedia Year Book 1932 pp.265-269, 1933 pp.219-224, 1934 pp.242-247, 1935 pp.233-239, 1936 pp.205-212, 1937 pp.206-214, 1938 pp.214-221, 1939 pp.230-237 [G]

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2001, last revised on August 24th 2007

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