Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Freedeman, Charles Eldon, 1926-||Dubofsky, Melvyn, 1934-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of History


France--Economic conditions; France--History--19th century


Economic transformation had never occurred on such a wide and rapid scale as it did during the industrial revolution of the nineteenth century. England had been the leader during the eighteenth century with France running a close second. But in the following century, France fell behind England. The French rate of growth was unusually slow, so slow at times that according to analyses of indexes of industrial production, gross national product, foreign commerce, and population growth, her economy was stagnant. A controversy has arisen over the cause or causes of that stagnation. The controversy centers on certain methodological questions concerning the proper way of describing economic growth and stagnation. Some historians have placed greater emphasis on the natural resources of France, while others have stressed psychological and social attitudes of a community concerning the development of capitalism. The first school emphasized France's lack of sufficient coal for rapid economic development during the nineteenth century. The second school, influenced by the exponents of the Weberian thesis, argued that the anti-capitalistic nature of French society retarded economic growth. Both schools have attempted to validate their theories by showing their consistency with historical facts. This paper describes the historical development of the controversy. Although no attempt is made to solve the problems raised by the controversy, the strengths and weaknesses of the various arguments are treated. The nature of cause-and-effect relationships are far too complicated to permit choosing a single retardative cause as being the most significant. The positions taken by the antagonists in this controversy can not be fully validated because their theories have gone beyond the available facts and often ignored significant information when it ran contrary to their arguments. In order to sustain any of the theories, a large amount of additional research is needed. Nevertheless, the controversy has stimulated additional research and added an important chapter in economic history concerning the determinents of economic growth.


Includes bibliographical references.


iv, 70 pages




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