Urban working classes
Industrial development in France during the nineteenth century occurred gradually, and yet with more rapidity than ever before, and with effects which varied between social groups and regions. The shift of labour away from primary production towards manufacturing, commerce and the services, and the growing concentration of productive activity, had important consequences for working conditions, living standards and social relationships. One major problem for the historian is how to convey the experience of being a worker. Contemporary accounts of working-class life were mainly written by people from a different class and culture, who were often interested in describing extremes of misery, drunkenness or political agitation. The relatively few workers who attempted to describe their experiences, as did Martin Nadaud in his Mémoires de Léonard, ancien garçon maçon, came very largely from the élite of skilled workers. This should not, however, lead us to underestimate the variety of the working-class experience. Workers lived and worked in a range of different social and economic milieux, varying with the size and social complexity of their place of settlement, the type of industrial employment, the scale of production, and the pressure for innovation. Maj or differences in experience and in perception were likely between generations, occupational groups and places.
Statistics on the industrial labour force are very uncertain, particularly for the early periods, but it does appear to have expanded quite rapidly from around 1.9 million in 1803-12, to 3.5 million in 1833-40, with the rate of increase subsequently slowing to reach 4.2 million in 1866, and then stagnating at around 4.5 million between 1876 and 1891, rising to 5.6 million in 1896 and to 6.7 million in 1913. 1Figure 17 indicates where this industrial population lived. In 1860-5, if a distinction is made between manufacturing industry and handicrafts production, the first category included 80,000 employers with 1,150,000 workers, i.e. an average of 14.5 workers per enterprise, and the latter