Liberalism and Social Reform: Industrial Growth and Progressiste Politics in France, 1880-1914

By David M. Gordon | Go to book overview

4 Industrial Crisis and Progressiste Success at Rive-de-Gier

Antoine Arbel's success at Rive-de-Gier represented a greater triumph over adversity than that of Georges Claudinon. 1 All the problems of heavy industry in the Ondaine valley were magnified in the Gier. Rive-de-Gier had been the valley's most important center of heavy industry, the site of the Jackson brothers first big steel plant and headquarters of the most profitable local coal company, the Société anonyme de Houille de Rive-de-Gier. 2 The largest steel companies in the Loire, the Marine company and Terrenoire, had grown up under the Second Empire in the area in and around the town. Glassmaking, Rive-de-Gier's most important artisan industry, had also done well in the same period and contributed to local prosperity. Its skilled workers, who were far better organized and more powerful than Le Chambon artisans, also played a greater role in the radicalization of local politics.

Heavy industry in the Gier valley, which was the most successful under the Empire, was also hit hardest by the crisis after 1880. The failure of the Terrenoire company in 1889 demoralized that town. Almost as frightening was the decision of the Aciéries de la Marine to move most of its plant from Rive- de-Gier to St. Chamond. The company's headquarters went first, followed in 1908 by its giant forges and piston hammers. 3

The exhaustion of the local mines compounded the problems of industry. While output in the Ondaine remained steady through the 1890s, production in the Gier began to decline, despite all management's efforts, from records set in the 1850s. Mines in the area still produced 16 percent of total French output in 1880, but by 1899, they were producing only 9.6 percent, while production costs had risen to 21 percent above the national average. The Société anonyme des houilles de Rive-de-Gier closed its least efficient mines in 1885, but heavy operating costs in its remaining concessions left it unable to compete with the Nord. The insoluble problem of depleted resources was a death sentence, and in

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Liberalism and Social Reform: Industrial Growth and Progressiste Politics in France, 1880-1914
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes 27
  • 1 - Industrial Growth and Socialist Success at Roubaix 31
  • Notes 50
  • 2 - Eugène Motte and the Bourgeois Political Resurgence 55
  • Notes 78
  • 3 - Georges Claudinon and the Industrial Revival at Le Chambon-Feugerolles 83
  • Notes 109
  • 4 - Industrial Crisis and Progressiste Success at Rive-De-Gier 115
  • Notes 135
  • 5 - François De Wendel and Progressiste Politics in Industrial Lorraine 141
  • Notes 164
  • Conclusion 171
  • Notes 191
  • Appendix 195
  • Bibliography 209
  • Index 217
  • About the Author 227
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