French Economy


Figure 1.--The image come from a postcard sent in 1905. The photo was taken in Avion, in Pas-de-Calais department of France, at the time a coal mining industrial town. We can see five miners, some of them teenagers and barefoot. We also see French and other workers in wooden clogs. This shows the substantial difference between American and European workers. American history textbooks give the impression that American workers lived in poverty an wreched conditions. Actually, American workers were the best paid in the world and led prosperous lives compared to both contemprary Europe and Ametica in the early-19th century. At the time this photograph was taken, you would not see adult American miners and workers without shoes or in clogs.

Until the Industrial Revolution, French economic history was dominated by one simple fact--the tremendous fertility of French agriculure. Ceasar's conquest of Gaul greatly increased the wealth and power of the Roman Empire. Until the conquest of Gaul, Rome was a Mediterranean rather than a European power. With the fall of Rome, the wealth generated by French farmers ensured that France would be an economic and thus political power in medieval Europe. This was especially true as Germany, which should have been the dominant European power, was rent by the conflict between the papacy and Emperor and would not be united until the 19th century. France was also a divided country, but gradually unified around Paris and the French monarchy, France thus became the most powerful continental power for centuries, sustined by its growing popultion and amazingly productive soil. As Europe emerged from the medieval era, France did not pursue the Inquisition like Spain and the Papacy in Italy, thus the country did not become an intelectual backwater like those countries. At the same time it did not become a major intelectual center like England. Nor did become a center of capitalis, like England and the Netherlands. Rather France was constrained by the Feudal system and royal absolutism which inhibited the ability of individuals to develop their talents and abilities. France remained a major power, but in many ways was more backward than England, a much smaller power. England and France had fought the 100 Years wars in the medieval era. At the dawn of the modern era, Louis XIV launched a major effort to expand France's borders. This initiated two cdnturies of intermittent warfare with England and other nrigbors. Given the greater size and potential richness of France, one might have expected France to emerge the victor. This did not occur. French defeats in a series of war stemmed lrgely because its economy was still largely feudal while Britain embraced capitalism fueled by a maritime economy which would give birth to the Industrial Revolution. France would not begin its own Indistrial Revolution until after the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. After the Napoleonic Wars, the Industrial Revolution spread to France. Brutain France, and Germany (even before unofication) began the European industrial leaders. They also becamne the leaders in science and education. The Catholic slowed the movement toward public education, although the secientific elite was competitive with Bitain and Germany. As with the rest of Europe, France was overtaken by the United States in the late-19th centyry. Interestingly, France was a rare country in Europe that did not have a substantisl emigration to America. France was different than Britain in that therewas still avey large and politically important small-holding pesant popultion in France.

Pre-history

Until the Industrial Revolution, French economic history was dominated by one simple fact--the tremendous fertility of French agriculure.

Gaul

Ceasar's conquest of Gaul greatly increased the wealth and power of the Roman Empire. Until the conquest of Gaul, Rome was a Mediterranean rather than a European power.

Meieval Era

With the fall of Rome, the wealth generated by French farmers ensured that France would be an economic and thus political power in medieval Europe. This was especially true as Germany, which should have been the dominant European power, was rent by the conflict between the papacy and Emperor and would not be united until the 19th century. France was also a divided country, but gradually unified around Paris and the French monarchy, France thus became the most powerful continental power for centuries, sustined by its growing popultion and amazingly productive soil. France remained a major power, but in many ways was more backward than England, a much smaller power. England and France had fought the 100 Years wars in the medieval era.

Early-Modrn Era

As Europe emerged from the medieval era, France did not pursue the Inquisition like Spain and the Papacy in Italy, thus the country did not become an intelectual backwater like those countries. At the same time it did not become a major intelectual center like England. Nor did become a center of capitalism, like England and the Netherlands. A factor here was the supression of the Hugenoughts. Rather France was constrained by the Feudal system and royal absolutism which inhibited the ability of individuals to develop their talents and abilities. At the dawn of the modern era, Louis XIV launched a major effort to expand France's borders. This initiated two cdnturies of intermittent warfare with England and other nrigbors. Given the greater size and potential richness of France, one might have expected France to emerge the victor. This did not occur. French defeats in a series of war stemmed lrgely because its economy was still largely feudal while Britain embraced capitalism fueled by a maritime economy which would give birth to the Industrial Revolution.

French Revolution


The 19th Century

France would not begin its own Indistrial Revolution until after the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars (1783-1815). After the Napoleonic Wars, the Industrial Revolution spread to France. Brutain France, and Germany (even before unofication) began the European industrial leaders. They also becamne the leaders in science and education. The Catholic slowed the movement toward public education, although the secientific elite was competitive with Bitain and Germany. As with the rest of Europe, France was overtaken by the United States in the late-19th centyry. Interestingly, France was a rare country in Europe that did not have a substantisl emigration to America. France was different than Britain in that therewas still avey large and politically important small-holding pesant popultion in France.






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Created: 12:29 AM 3/14/2015
Last updated: 12:29 AM 3/14/2015