The Development of the French Economy 1750-1914 (New Studies by Colin Heywood

By Colin Heywood

Knowing French financial improvement within the eighteenth and 19th centuries has continuously proved an impressive problem for historians. This concise survey is designed to clarify the parts of controversy between historians, and to steer the reader during the debates. the writer offers succinct surveys of contemporary findings at the trend of improvement, and at the underlying reasons of that development. He argues that France presents a quietly profitable case of monetary improvement, keeping off the large social upheaval skilled somewhere else in Europe.

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The Development of the French Economy 1750-1914 (New Studies in Economic and Social History)

Figuring out French financial improvement within the eighteenth and 19th centuries has continually proved a powerful problem for historians. This concise survey is designed to clarify the parts of controversy between historians, and to lead the reader during the debates. the writer offers succinct surveys of contemporary findings at the trend of improvement, and at the underlying reasons of that trend.

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In poor areas, such as Brittany and Lorraine, the introduction of the potato merely allowed a larger population to stay alive with a lower standard of living. No less importantly, Toutain appears to have burnt his fingers handling eighteenth-century statistical sources, causing him to exaggerate wildly the growth of agricultural output. A more realistic figure, proposed by Le Roy Ladurie, would be an increase in the range of 25 to 40 per cent between the 1700s and the 1780s. This brings us to the other extreme in the debate, with those economists and historians who relegate agriculture to a 'weak' as opposed to a 'strong' role in overall development.

Toutain for the Histoire quantitative also points 44 to significant change on the land during the eighteenth century. Between 1701-10 and 1781-90 Toutain estimates that there was a 60 per cent increase in the 'final deflated agricultural product', which comfortably outstripped the 28 per cent increase in population, and suggests an end to the massive famines of the past. However, this line of argument provoked a series of ferocious counterblasts from other historians, calling into question both the data and the general thesis proposed by Bairoch [1, 27-52].

But they emphasize the influence of the peculiarly slow growth of population in France, which dampened the demand for foodstuffs. 1 Such figures suggest that French farmers were just about able to provide an adequate supply of food [50]. Vernon Ruttan goes 49 further, when looking at the period 1880 to 1930, claiming that 'the "inefficient" French peasant provided the urban-industrial sector with more food per capita and at lower real prices' [99]. Similarly, there is the argument that in so far as French peasants tended to stay on the land, it was because industry was slow to create new employment outlets for them.

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