The German Model
Viewed in an international context, the social problems faced by France after 1870 were not untypical of late nineteenth-century Europe. Only their pace and pattern were peculiar. In the early phase of industrialization, of course, France had been a leader, along with Britain, at a time when artisanship was still a primary mode of production. But the passage to factory labor on a large scale was another matter, and it was one that the English and the Germans managed rather better than the French. Although Napoleon III presided over an expanding economy in the two decades after 1848, the rate of growth was already beginning to flag before 1870. The war was then a severe shock to an already weakened system, and three decades of relative economic lethargy followed.
Thus the French nation was slow to enter the later phase of industrialization and was handicapped when it did so. Among the obvious measurements of France's development was a persistently high percentage of rural population or, inversely, a consistent but slow pace of urbanization before 1900, which was thrown into especially sharp relief by the contrast with Germany.1 Because the German industrial spurt of the late nineteenth century was unmatched by France, it is certainly logical--and perhaps accurate--to suppose that the attendant social problems were objectively more acute east of the Rhine. Poverty and pauperism, social dislocation and structural unemployment, rural misery and urban crowding: these are the general terms appropriate to describe the more pronounced effects engendered in Germany by a swift transition to modern industry based on concentrated factory production. France surely did not remain