One of the weightiest factors in the history of the Third Republic is the lag in industrial development. It was, of course, inherited from an earlier epoch. The twenty odd years of war between 1789 and 1815 not only retarded progress in technique and organisation, but left behind a kind of economic timidity, a reluctance to take risks, which lingered on into the twentieth century. In 1815 France emerged from the wars battered and shaken, with a government it despised and a hated aristocracy which had learnt nothing. There was a heavy indemnity to be liquidated. Much of the overseas empire had gone for ever, and the merchant marine scarcely existed. French industrialists seemed to have changed their methods very little, let alone improved them. Why should they? With the continent of Europe prostrate at the Emperor’s feet, they had enjoyed the monopoly of a vast market. Most of the army contractors, having made their fortunes, had moved into high finance. The Haute Banque was little interested in industrial promotion. The finance houses were dominated by foreigners, Swiss Protestant and German Jews, Hottinguer, Mallet, Rothschild, Thelusson, who gave their attention to government loans and arbitrage. During these years, the British had developed and adopted new inventions. Now it appeared that they might prevent French recovery. Hence French merchants and manufacturers had clamoured not merely for protection but in many cases for prohibition of imports. On the other hand, after the Peace of Paris, the English forbade the export of their prized machinery and the emigration of skilled artisans. Needless to say, smuggling flourished.
KeywordsRailway Company Finance House French Market French Manufacturer Belgian Firm
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