Beneath the clamour and abuse, behind the posturing and cabotinage of the Boulangers, and the Déroulèdes, the Floquets and the Delahayes, the politicians and the journalists, there was coming into existence a France of a different character. The period between 1873 and, say, 1896 was for many years labelled the ‘Great Depression’, indeed until half a century later when another, deeper and more formidable, exposed the misinterpretation in the nineteenth-century title. The lamentations were exaggerated. The not so severe decline in prices, which afflicted the western industrial world, was due to a multiplicity of events, of which the most influential were the series of technical changes heralding the vigorous expansion of the first years of the twentieth century. The physical sciences were preparing to interfere decisively in the shaping of political society. The development of power, power to move men and materials in the exact amounts required; the power to convey information with immediacy and accuracy; the power to mould mechanically articles of iron and steel in series; the adoption of new elements, fuel oil and electricity; the discovery of new alloys, new syntheses and new substitutes. There was the new control of time, bringing the punctual arrival of ships and trains, with a consequent economy of freight charges and insurance; the power of accurate calculation of everything except Nature — weather, disease, parasites and insects, droughts, floods and men’s tempers remained uncoercible. In all, the reduction of the uncertain element in manufacture, with a serious reduction in risk margins.
KeywordsFamily Firm Risk Margin Uncertain Element Agricultural Protection Merino Wool
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