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Interbellum Metropoleis : Paris
Korean Minjok Leadership Academy
Jeong, Hae Yoon
Term Paper, AP European History Class, May 2008
Table of Contents
II. Background : The End of World War I
IV.1 The economy of France directly after the World War グ
IV.2 The economy of Paris
V. Technical Progress
VI. Art and Culture
VI.2 Les Annees Folles - the Crazy Years
VII. Political Power
VII.1 The Treaty of Versailles and afterwards
VII.2 Politics in the 1920s
VII.3 Politics in the 1930s
VII.4 The Stavisky Scandal
VIII. The status before World War ケ
World War グ left France wounded. France experienced the highest rate of calamity of any of the belligerent. A lot were injured or gassed,
needing assistance. New kinds of Jobs had to be made for the millions of returning veterans, and war economy had to return to peacetime
economy. Paris¨ had been damaged also. Parisian streets were empty during the war, since most automobiles were sent to the battlefields.
This paper is about the history of the interbellum, which means the period between wars; the World War グ and World War ケ. It will be
specifically about Paris, the capital of France. In order to have a deeper understanding about the advent of events and the policies during the
interbellum in Paris, the end of World War グ and results of it will be briefly touched. The aspects of demography, economy, technical progress,
culture and the political power in Paris will be discussed. In addition, a brief introduction of World War ケ about the situation France, specifically
Paris, was in when the war was imminent.
II. Background : The End of World War I
In 1919, France had a great celebration for the victory of the war. It seemed that France became more expanded and stronger through the
First World War. However the reality was not so magnificent. For France, World War グ had been a devastating experience. Of the 8 million
men mobilized, some 1.4 million had been killed, while over 3 million more had been wounded. France also suffered immense physical
destruction. For almost 4 years, northern France had been a battlefield. Hundreds of cities and towns had suffered severe damage, and
factories, mines and farmland had been devastated. The cost of reconstruction was immense 1). Parisian streets were
empty during the war, since most automobiles were sent to the battlefields. (The city¨s automobile industry was given a boost, however, and
also diversified into arms manufacturing.) Paris experienced harsh winters, in particular that of 1917, when bitter cold and shortages of food
and medicine combined to stimulate the spread of epidemics. Repeated bombings caused damage and casualties, especially in 1918 with
the development of German long-range siege artillery. In their final offensive campaigns of the war, German armies came within 130 km
of Paris, but never reached the city 2). The 2nd battle of Marne (June-August 1918) stopped the German army from
Ville de Paris : Population (3)
?It was France which paid the most price of the war when comparing the demographic scale. 1,325,000 people died and 280 million people were injured.
Also the birth rate decreased greatly, giving the 1914-1918 age groups the nickname "the cavity age group." After on Paris had to pay annuity
to orphans, widows and the handicapped. The active population decreased by 10.5 percent whereas the expenditure increased. Due to the
weakened activity, Paris became the earthly the paradise of immigrants. Of those immigrants, the majority were Italians, Poles, Belgians and
Spaniard. Also the Russian ?migr?s, migrant labors from Romania, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, and Poland came to Paris, making Paris a
cosmopolitan metropolis. In 1931 the population of foreigners in France was up to 3 million. Above is the population of Paris from 1901 to 1944.
It is seen that the population increased, although slowly, during the World War グ and the decade after. It is also seen that from 1926 to 1936
of the interbellum, the population decreased.
IV.1 The Economy of France directly after World War グ
The economic damage was great due to the material damage. Northern cities were devastated; the industrial and agricultural facilities became
out of date since they could not be replaced with newly invented ones. An economist, Sorby, evaluated the total material damage of France
caused by the World War グ as 55 billion France franc. This is equivalent to 15 times the national income of France before the World War グ.
The industrial production of 1919 was only 60 percent of that of 1913. The financial deficit by the war cost was estimated at 10 trillion France
francs. The government frequently issued government bond. The debt of France to the Allies was 32 billion France francs, but the financial
status of France was also wretched. It was identifiable from the fact the amount of currency in circulation (38 billion France francs) was
excessive compared to the gold holdings (5 billion and 500 million France franc). Therefore high inflation was generated and because the
Allies did not fund France, it had to devaluate France franc in 1927.
IV.2 The Economy of Paris
The wealth concentration in Paris increased until World War グ and then fell abruptly. After the war, unemployment, food and transportation
shortages, the high cost of living, and the influence of the Bolshevik Russian Revolutions of 1917 fueled social discontent among the working
class of Paris once more (4). The total income was severely hurt by major shocks during the World War グ period -
war, inflation, depression. The First World War caused inflation, and the world depression struck Paris from 1932.
V. Technical Progress
Although Paris after World War グ was influenced by the frequent fluctuation of currency value (rating the retail price index in 1913 as 100,
it was 366 in 1920 and 532 in 1926), the industry succeeded in recovering. It took about 11 years to recover the production deficit from
1913 to 1924. Afterwards was the period of industrial prosperity until 1930(rating the production rate in 1913 as 100, it was 140 in 1930).
The reconstruction of industry brought modernization and automation together and the replenishment of circulating work created the new
type of laborer called OS (ouvrier specialise). In 1931, 18 percent of the laborers worked in an enterprise more than 500 employees.
The chemical, electricity, petroleum, car industries experienced large growth. The success of engineers such as Ernest Mercier and
Andre Citroen shows the prosperity and expansion of the 20's well.
VI. Art and Culture
The 1920s in Paris was one of the greatest artistic scenes in the modern world. Painters, sculptors, writers, dancers from America,
England, Ireland, Russia and Spain came to the capital (5). Some to escape from the horrible aftermath of World War I,
others to escape from the growing conservatism of the United States. Russians came to Paris to escape from the revolution in Russia. France
(and Paris) attracted young Russians in search for work, because so many young Frenchman had not reformed from the battlefield. This
cosmopolitan aspect of Paris let it also be one of the most prevalent artistic metropoleis.
?Social estrangement increased after the World War グ. Prosperity put down roots on one side and poverty on the other. The 20's were the years
of craziness (les Annees Folles) symbolized as Tango, jazz, whiskey, Charleston and silent film. The Montparnasse met its zenith during this period.
Dadaism and surrealism influenced literature and art. The 1924 Olympic games were held in Paris, France and the first winter Olympic
game were held in Chamonix, France in the same year. Radio became widespread throughout Europe after the war and in Paris also.
The most popular dance before the World War グ was Waltz. In the 1920s, two types of dances became popular; the Charleston and Tango.
These dances had the features that were more creative, more active, more sensitive and less limited than the previous dances. The dances
were performed in dance halls. There were manners and rules made to be obeyed in those dance halls. Also, dance hall was the place for
males and females could engage without harsh regulation. In the 1920s free expression was expressed in the dance hall.? Charleston is a dance
originating from Charleston, South Carolina 1923. It became popular in dance halls in Paris; together with the Tango it is the characteristic dance of the
1920s (6). Tango is a dance originating in Bueno Aires in the 1890s. It spread to Europe and immediately became popular
VI.2 Les Annees Folles - the Crazy Years
In the twenties - les Annees Folles - fortunes changed hands. Those crazy years saw Josephine Baker, the African-American music hall vedette,
take Paris by storm. Ex-patriot painters and writers from east and west formed art colonies in Montmartre and Montparnasse: Anais Nin,
Brassaii, Nabokov, Joyce, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Miller and Sylvia Beach. Gertrude Stein dubbed her American compatriots of Paris the
"lost generation", those whose ideals had been destructed in the maelstrom of war (8).
Like its counterpart Montmartre, Montparnasse became famous at the beginning of the 20th century, referred to as les Ann?es Folles (the Crazy Years),
when it was the heart of intellectual and artistic life in Paris. During the interbellum, Paris' artistic center shifted to Montparnasse from the Montmartre
district which had been the intellectual breeding ground for the previous generation of artists. The Paris of Zola, Manet, France, Degas, Faur?, a group that
had assembled more on the basis of status affinity than actual artistic tastes, indulging in the refinements of Dandyism, was at the opposite end of the
economic, social, and political spectrum from the gritty, tough-talking, die-hard, emigrant artists that peopled Montmartre. Montparnasse
was a community where creativity was embraced with all its oddities, each new arrival welcomed unreservedly by its existing members. (9)
In 1895, a new medium that greatly affects the entertainment world was invented by the brothers Lumiere in France: film. During World War グ
the supply of film was stagnated in Europe including Paris, but after the war it became an industry and cinemas flourished. The movies were
silent, having no sound until the mid 1920s, and then it transferred to the "talking pictures," the talkies. Movies became Parisians' favorite form
of entertainment and going to cinema once a week became a common routine for them.
Art in France followed the popular isms; Dadaism and surrealism. Dadaism was created by the artists who felt detest with the World War グ
and tried to depict the horror of the war. Dadaist painter Max Ernst immigrated to France in 1922. Surrealism is an art style which replaced
Dadaism as the dominant style in the free world in the mid 1920s. Also a performing art called Cabaret was popular in Paris. It was developed
in Paris in the 19th century and spread to cities elsewhere in the interbellum. Cabarets contained a variety of programs, both artistic and
critical provocative; the latter breaking traditional sexual taboos or making fun of daily politics. They indicate a breakdown in censorship. (10)
Following the First World War, private building for the middle class barely survived. The residents of Paris mixed styles in public buildings,
including art deco, modern design, and a particularly French sort of neoclassicism. A variety of unprecedented architectures resulted,
encouraged by the arrival of a number of foreign architects. Architectural lines were simple and had geometric forms. Paris strove to construct
the unimaginative brick housing projects designed for the gateways to Paris, along the exterior boulevards. Also a grand project for a
"triumphal way" to link the Champs-Elysees, which had become the most fashionable and Modern Street in Paris, and the unconstructed Defense
was designed. (11) But it was ultimately abandoned because for lack of funds.
VII. Political Power
Following the First World War, both Great Britain and France confronted serious economic problems, which became even more intense during
the depression decade of the 1930s. Nevertheless, French maintained its democratic political systems. Though, the political instability that had
characterized the French Third Republic since its founding in 1870 became more serious following World War グ. The political controversies
before 1914 had the characteristic of ideology. The controversies issued in the National Assembly after the World War グ became mostly about
foreign policies or financial, social and economic problems.
VII.1 The Treaty of Versailles and After
The treaty of Versailles is a peace treaty for Germany after the First World War dictated by the victorious allies. Germany had to cede
Alsace-Lorraine to France, pay reparation to France and the Rhineland was to be demilitarized. (12) It was enacted in
the Paris conference in 1919. France and the Allies were in a difficult situation dealing with Germany. The treaty of Versailles was the result
of the imperfect compromise among the allied nations. France demanded the periodical payment of Germany's reparation, but England and
the U. S. A. did not accept it. Afterwards the public opinion in France was divided into the Poincares; the group supporting the strict implementation
of the treaty of Versailles and the Briands; the group supporting the compromise between Germany which became a democratic republic. In 1923
France invades and occupies Ruhr of Germany. Though France withdraws the troop in the late 1920s, it caused criticisms from other nations.
VII.2 Politics in the 1920es
France was governed by the right-wing National Bloc from 1920 to 1924. The National Bloc pushed a hard line toward Germany. When Germany
failed to pay its reparations in 1922, France invaded the Ruhr. Then France was governed by the Left Cartel, a coalition of Radicals and Socialists
from 1924 to 1926. Although easing the tension with Germany, the Left Cartel was incapable to relieve the problems of inflation, the national debt,
and the unbalanced budget as the National Bloc had. Raymond Poincare heads a National Union ministry in France from 1926 to 1929. During this
period the French economy experiences recovery. There was a high level of employment, and the reconstruction of the war-devastated areas of
the country was completed. However, subsequent events revealed that the recovery was only temporary. (13)
VII.3 Politics in the 1930es
France was governed by the Left Cartel again from 1932 to 1934. However in 1934, the infamous Stavisky scandal occurred. The Left Cartel
collapsed and the parliament established a National Union ministry, headed by Gaston Doumergue in 1934. In this period the industry experienced a
decent increase in production, but other economic sectors declined in their production. In 1936, the Socialist leader Leon Blum's Popular Front
government takes power in France until 1938. The Popular Front introduced reformations such as 40 hour workweek and paid vacations for the
Labor Union. However the Popular Front failed to produce any real solution to France's basic economic solutions and collapsed in 1938.
VII.4 The Stavisky Scandal
In early 1934, the French politics was shook violently by a scandal. Serge Stavisky, who had cheated investors out of millions of francs, had been
protected by a number of politicians with conviction, including the Left Cartel which was the leading party. Whether Stavisky committed suicide in
order to avoid arrest or was murdered to prevent him from revealing his political connections has never been determined. In protest against the
corruption and ineffectiveness of the Third Republic, ultra-right-wing political groups organized a great demonstration in Paris on February 6, 1934.
The demonstration quickly turned into a riot when the demonstrators attempted to storm the Chamber of Deputies building. (14)
VIII. The Status before World War II
Throughout France, strikes and violent social actions continued to rage. War was coming and the French right was not displeased at the prospect of
Nazi Germany barring the route to social revolution in Europe. In Paris only minimal preparations for war were undertaken, beginning in March 1939.
Twelve miles of trenches were dug as shelter in the event of aerial bombings; gas masks were distributed; and anti-air raid shelters were opened. (15)
The World War グ had left Paris and France with devastated situation. The total population of France had greatly decreased. The population of Paris had
not noticeably decreased since the city was not invaded directly by the German army, but it was harmed seriously.
After the war, the economy of Paris declined due to unemployment, food shortage, and inflation and so on. Also the depression decade had a powerful
negative impact on Paris. Although the economy recovered during the late 1920s, the government was not able to develop policies that led to a substantial
economic recovery or a decrease in unemployment. Furthermore, France lacked outstanding leaders, and the Great Depression undermined the already
shaky political structure of the Third Republic. Though, there were technical progresses during the late 1920s and the early 1930s when the economic
growth was in peak. Those progresses were made in chemical, electricity, petroleum, and car industries.
During the interbellum, Paris pursued to be the center of art and culture. The 1920s of France is called the "crazy years" for that, and a lot of artistic
developments were accomplished in the Montparnasse. Olympic game was held in Paris in 1924. Dances were popular in Paris and arts such as Dadaism,
Surrealism and cabaret in Paris had produced many prestigious artists. Attempts to create new type of architecture were taken and film became enormously
popular since this period.
Paris was the city where the conference which contracted the treaty of Versailles had been held. The treaty of Versailles had a few defects that later on
caused problems. The government of France changed at the interval of approximately 3 years between the left and right wing. During this period the
infamous Stavisky scandal occurs, enraging the citizens of Paris (of course the whole public of France too). The governments turn out to be ineffective for
solving the problems in Paris and France. In that situation France enters the World War ケ, being hardly prepared for the war.
Note : websites quoted below were visited in May-June 2008.
1. Democracies during the Interbellum, Arts & culture during the Interbellum pp.235-245
Ganse, Alexander. KMLA Handbook Modern European History: Fifth Edition. 2007.
2. Entre deux Geurres-La France de 1919 a 1939 pp.57-59
Nelly Mauchamp. La France de toujours-civilization. Cle International, 1994.
3. The Interim, The Hollow Years pp.149-153
Elaine Mokhtefi. Paris-an illustrated history,? Hippocrene Book, INC. 2002.
4. Great Britain and France between the two World Wars pp.452-465
Birdsall S. Viault, Modern European History, McGraw-Hill, 1990,
5. Decline and degradation: Interwar and Vichy. pp.143-169
W. Scott Haine. The history of France, Greenwood Press, 2000
6. A time of crisis 1914-1945. pp219-246
Roger Price. A concise history of France. Cambridge University Press. 1992
7. Articles : Montparnasse,
Charleston, Tango. from Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montparnasse http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tango_(dance) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charleston_(dance)
8. Expatriate writers in Paris: 1920s. from
University of Maryland University College Europe
9. Ville de Paris: Population & Density. since 1365 from Demographia
10. Th, Piketty, G. Postel-Vinay and J.-L. Rosenthal,
Wealth concentration in a developing economy
: Paris and France, 1807-1994 http://www.econ.yale.edu/seminars/echist/eh04-05/rosenthal042705.pdf
11. Article : Paris during the World Wars. from
12. Economic 1929: Paris. from JSTOR http://mc1litvip.jstor.org/doi/xml/10.2307/1906941