The 1920s: French Intellectuals and Pacifism, Communism, Surrealism and Nationalism

  • David Drake
Part of the French Politics, Society and Culture Series book series (FPSC)


Although France had emerged from four years of war as one of the ‘victor’, it is difficult to overestimate the devastating impact of the human carnage and material destruction on French society. Of those mobilised, 16.5 per cent (over 1.3 million) had been killed compared with 9.8 per cent for Germany and 5.1 per cent for Britain. Overall, this meant that one French soldier in six failed to return, but when one considers the cohort of 20-25 year olds, it rises to one in three. In addition, over three million French soldiers had been wounded, of whom over a million severely so. Between 1915 and 1919, it is estimated that there were nearly one and a half million fewer births than there would have been if it had not been for the war, which exacerbated France’s already relatively low birthrate. In 1918, France’s population was 35 million compared with 63 million in Germany. Such was the concern about this demographic deficit that, in 1920, laws were passed increasing the penalties for carrying out abortions, and banning the promotion of contraception.


Peace Treaty Legislative Election Russian Revolution Surrealist Movement Material Destruction 
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Copyright information

© David Drake 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Drake
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Middlesex UniversityUK
  2. 2.Institut d’études européenesParis VIII UniversityFrance

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