After the Ruins: Restoring the Countryside of Northern France after the Great War

By Hugh Clout | Go to book overview

9
Reconstruction Cooperatives

Collective Responses to a Fiercely Individualistic Law

The fundamental principle behind the legislation of 17 April 1919 on war damages involved the individual sinistré, who was responsible for declaring and evaluating material losses in a form that would be acceptable to the canton commission prior to lodging claims for compensation from the state. Rich property owners and industrialists could employ legal and financial advisers to steer them speedily and profitably through this bureaucratic morass but, as Deputy Albert Inghels argued with great force, such assistance was unthinkable for the great number of family farmers in the war zone who had few if any resources behind them. It was as if ‘for some, everything is permitted… for others, everything is taken away, so that ordinary sinistrés have nothing left, having been squeezed like lemons’ (Inghels 1924: 13). Many sinistrés were overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task of evaluation and fell into despair, believing that they would have to abandon their ruins and their land (De Mahuet 1927: 5). As André Tardieu stressed, the law of 17 April 1919 was ‘fiercely individualistic’ but nonetheless it contained two articles (49 and 58) which stressed the merits of sinistrés grouping together to confront the challenge of reconstruction (AN 324 AP/63 Tardieu, A., Ce que demandent les régions libérées, 01.09.20). It also offered more generous financial advances to associations which lodged claims for compensation than to sinistrés who operated individually (Caraud 1924: 70). Within days of the passage of the law, the Ministre des Régions Libérées instructed prefects to encourage the creation of reconstruction associations in their départements. A few weeks later, the Belgian government similarly favoured the establishment of cooperatives to assist rebuilding (Willaert 1930).

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After the Ruins: Restoring the Countryside of Northern France after the Great War
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Figures vii
  • Tables ix
  • Plates x
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - The War-Torn Zone 1
  • 2 - The Intensity of Devastation 19
  • 3 - The Start of Emergency Action 59
  • 4 - The Service Des Travaux de Premiére Urgence 85
  • 5 - Motoculture 109
  • 6 - The Office de Reconstitution Agricole 125
  • 7 - Achievements of the Emergency Phase 149
  • 8 - Principles of Compensation, Rules of Reconstruction 175
  • 9 - Reconstruction Cooperatives 207
  • 10 - Land and Livelihood: Continuity and Change 241
  • 11 - Toward a Balance Sheet 273
  • References 301
  • Index 329
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