France 1918-1929
the Economy
France 1940-1944
the Economy
France 1929-1939
Domestic Policy
France 1929-1939
Intellectual Life

France 1929-1939 : the Economy

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. French official unemployment figures were around 500,000 (there was some 'hidden unemployment', though. France's exports continued (because of the recent devaluation of the Franc) until Britain devaluated the Pound Sterling in 1931.
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 productivity of France's industry declined, as did prices for many products, and wages/salaries. A fact contributing to relatively low unemployment figures was the large sector of the population still engaged in agriculture.
The STAVISKY AFFAIR of 1934, 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 population of the SAARGEBIET (attached economically to France since 1919), important for her coal reserves, in a plebiscite overwhelmingly opted for reintegration into Germany. The same year the LEAGUE OF NATIONS called upon her members to boycott Italy. France, Italy's most important trade partner, koined the boycott.

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. Among the reform legislation they introduced were the 40-HOUR WORKWEEK and TWO WEEKS PAID VACATION; the arms industry was nationalized and state control over the national bank strengthened. Wages also rose (at a time when wages, in other countries, were cut). CAPITAL FLIGHT set in again. The Popular Front government fell over internal dissent.

France, Europe's most vibrant economy in the 1920es, experienced the effects of the GREAT DEPRESSION rather late, unemployment figures rising sharply only in 1931 and 1932. With an economically active population of 12.9 million in 1936, unemployment stood at 3.6 %, a rate lower than those in Germany or Britain. Yet, unemploment declined only very slowly.

Article Stavisky Affair, from Infoplease
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
Article : France, in : Statesman's Yearbook 1937 pp.882-912 (data of 1935-1937) [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 March 30th 2007

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