Economic History of Europe in Modern Times

By Melvin M. Knight; Harry Elmer Barnes et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
FRENCH INDUSTRY SINCE THE REVOLUTION

PECULIARITIES OF CONDITIONS IN FRANCE

To imprison the main facts concerning the industrial development of any country during a long period in a single chapter is always difficult. Agriculture is in reality an extractive industry, which refuses to be separated, particularly if it happens to be relatively important, as in France. To set off the growing of grapes from the manufacture of wine is artificial, and the same remark holds good for sugar beets and the refineries which extract sugar from them. There are other, more serious reasons why the growth of industry in France since the eighteenth century is unusually hard to deal with. A series of wars, ending in those incident to the French Revolution, deprived her of most of her colonial empire, crippled her foreign investments and trade, embarrassed her finances at home, and in other ways radically changed her position as an industrial nation. For example, a series of inventions gave cotton textiles an enormous impetus at the very time when she was least in a position to import the raw material and keep pace with the change. Silk declined in importance relative to cotton, and absolutely during the French Revolution itself. The great blockade affected the introduction of machinery and the growth of the factory system in a multitude of intricate ways, at a critical time. Belgium was to profit more than France from what was actually accomplished in the way of stimulating mining and machine industry during the Napoleonic period.

France was really setting out on a new and uncharted course, in a changed European situation, after the Peace of 1815. The British capital and talent which had been a factor in the previous century, now favored Belgium, and later Germany to a lesser extent, when they did not flow

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