University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Quantitative History Seminar > French occupational structure and labour productivity: what can new estimates tell us about the pace and nature of French industrialisation?

French occupational structure and labour productivity: what can new estimates tell us about the pace and nature of French industrialisation?

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This paper will use new data on labour force to discuss the evolution of French apparent labour productivity since the end of the C18th. It shows that revisionist historians (Cameron, O’Brien and Keyder) were far too optimistic regarding C19th French industrial performance, but that subsequent counter-revisionists accounts failed to acknowledge the essential structural transformation that defined the French model of development before WW1 . Thus, this new evidences partially confirm Crafts’ assessment of France’s modest but not inconsiderable economic performance in the nineteenth century, though they significantly revise downward French industrial productivity throughout the period.  The paper also analyses the productivity gap between the two countries suggesting that whereas French industry mostly followed British achievements (emulation), the key difference between the two countries was in the structure of agricultural production. The combination of labour-intensive agricultural production and low concentration of industrial waged labour (generalised by-employment) made possible by the unique distribution of landownership was the keystone of French economic development before the war.

This talk is part of the Quantitative History Seminar series.

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