The Industrial Revolution in France, 1815-1848

The Industrial Revolution in France, 1815-1848

The Industrial Revolution in France, 1815-1848

The Industrial Revolution in France, 1815-1848

Excerpt

Research on the Industrial Revolution in France is an adventure which brings both the joy of discovery and the knowledge of failure. The literature of French economic history is unsatisfactory. There are great gaps in the evidence that cannot yet be filled; there is widespread ignorance of what does exist, and there are very few statistics that are reliable. Much evidence is also highly prejudiced, or must be used for purposes quite different from those for which it was written. This is particularly true of the tariff, the cause of a series of enquêtes and many books and pamphlets in which propaganda is generally given as fact. From such material it is exceedingly difficult to write an account that will be useful, or even interesting, to the economic historian. Also, some of the best evidence is almost buried in sources that would not appear to be concerned with the history of the Industrial Revolution. Thus, the best essay on the general subject is nominally on cotton alone and was published by Professor Laufenburger in the Revue politique et parlementaire. A source on the actual condition of the workers in mills that is second in value only to Villermé is the report of Dr. Thouvenin published in the Journal d'hygiène publique, where it was promptly forgotten. An investigator in the field of French economic history never knows where he will find evidence, but he does know that in most cases he will find only atoms, which he must fuse together as best he can. He cannot start in the usual way by a careful study of the official archives unless he is assured of years of residence in France. He must go wherever clues may lead him.

Work on this book was begun in 1931, through inspiration from the work of the late Henri Sée whom I knew personally, and continued until 1948, despite frequent interruptions during the Second World War, which made further visits to France too difficult to attempt and thus made use of the national archives impossible.

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