*** World War II French energy economic sectors

World War II: French Economic Sectors -- Energyy

Figure 1.--German economic was aimed at exploting the French economy to support the war effort. Ultimtely it was coujntrr productive. It was so explotive that production plummeted, meaning there was much less to exploit than what might be expected from one of europe's most productuve economies. Another issue for the french economy was enertgy. Suddenly oil (petrol) was no nonger available. there were also serious coln shortages. This no only affected individuals, but it mean that industry, smll buiness, nd frmers had to adjust, further limiting economic activity. Here a man drags with is yiounbf son and daughter drags a cart thriugh an empty Paris street. Not only did induviduals have to adjust, but industry bneeding to move raw material and finished product.

Frsnce had important coal fields, but had lost some as a result of the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71) because of the German annexation of Alsace-Loraine. Still it was an important producer. The country did not, however, have any important oil fields. There was a small field in Alsace which was recovered along wih coal fields as part of the World War I victory and the Versailles Peace Treaty (1919). Unlike Britain, neither did the French colonial possessions. Most of France's oil was imported from the United States, Venezuela, and the Middle East, namely Iraq. [Beaujeu-Garnier] The Compagnie Française des Pétroles (CFP) owned over 20 percebt of the Iraq Petroleum Company which was developed in the 1920s. CFP is the forrunner of today's oil giant Total. A pipeline conncted the oilfields around Kirkuk in northern Iraq to refineries in Haifa in British controlled Palestine and Tripoli in French controlled Lebanon. AFAIK operated the pipelines year round. There were important refineries in Balaruc and La Pallice. After the German invasion and occupation (June 1940), the British cut off oil imports to Vichy France. There was no way Vichy could replaced American oil because of the British naval blockade and American export controls. The Royal Navy also prevented Iraqi deliveries to France after the country fell to the NAZIs and Vichy began collaborating. Then after the Iraqi Revolt (April 1941), Britain invaded Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria. Lebanon and Syria were turned over to the Free French, meaninng that Vichy was permanently cut off. French annual oil consumtion collapsed from 8.3 million t (1938) to aa mere (estimated) 0.3 million t during the German occupation (1940-44). Little actual data exits concerning the Vichy era, but there is no doubt that virtually no oil was avialablle to Frenvh civilians and industry. The CFP during the war was primarily concerned with survival and protecting its refieries and other vital interest. [Phuillier] The Germans were not about to share their limited oil supply, desperately needed by the military, with Vichy . The Germans were primarily concerned with getting as much French coal as possible. The lack of oil would be a major factor in military operations, but coal was vital for industry. The German victory in the West (1940) was an enormous success in many ways. The Germns gained the very substantil French strategic reserve of critical raw materials. But they failed to intelgently exploit even more valuable prize--the French economy. France was one of the major indutrial powers in the world with a large, modern arms industry, including aviation and motor vehicles. French production woiuld had played a major roler in arming the Americn Expeditionary Force in World War I. French indusdtrial production could have significantly added to German arms production. And unlike the Germans, the French were mastering mass production. The Germans, however, did not make much use of French industry. This failure was important and too often ignored. There were several reasons for this, including the German penchant for exploitation and brutality. Another major factor was energy shortages. Energy is needed to power industry. Oil for the most part was virtusally unavailable, but France had coal. Undrt German occupation, French coal fell precipitouly crerating coal shortages as well. No German policies could hve obtained oil for France, but coal was a different matter. There was no reason that col nproduction could not hve been mintained. The precpitous fall was all a result of German occupation policies. During the War there were importnt oil storage depots in France that were tageted by Allied bombers.


Beaujeu-Garnier, Jacqueline. "La France et le pétrole," L'Information Géographique Année 1952, pp. 65-71.

Harrison, Mark. "The economics of World War II: An overview," in "The Economics of World War II: Six Great Powers" in Mark Harrison, ed. International Comparison (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), (University of Warwick). We have used Table 1-3. The dollar figures are in 1999 dollars.

Jones, Joseph. "Vichy France and postwar economic modernization: The case of the shopkeepers," French Historical Studies (1982) Vol. 12, No. 4, pp. 541-63

Phuillier, M. "La stratégie de la Compagnie Française des Pétroles durant la Seconde Guerre Mondiale : sauvegarder l'essentiel," Histoire, économie & société Année 1992, pp. 463-78.

Rossiter, Adrian, "Popular Front economic policy and the Matignon negotiations," Historical Journal Vol.30, No. 3 (1987), pp. 663-84.


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