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Finance and welfare: the impact of two world wars on domestic policy in France

By Frances M.B. Lynch


In the traditional historiography of twentieth-century France the period after the Second World War is usually contrasted favourably with that after 1918. After 1945, new men with new ideas, born out of the shock of defeat in 1940 and resistance to Nazi occupation, laid the basis for an economic and social democracy. The welfare state was created, women were given full voting rights, and French security, in both economic and territorial respects, was partially guaranteed by integrating West Germany into a new supranational institutional structure in Western Europe. 1945 was to mark the beginning of the '30 glorious years' of peace and prosperity enjoyed by an expanding population in France. In sharp contrast, the years after 1918 are characterized as a period dominated by France's failed attempts to restore its status as a great power. Policies based on making the German taxpayer finance France's restoration are blamed for contributing to the great depression after 1929 and the rise of Hitler. However, as more research is carried out into the social and economic reconstruction of France after both world wars, it is becoming clear that the basis of what was to become the welfare state after 1945 was laid in the aftermath of the First World War. On the other hand, new reforms adopted in 1945 which did not build on interwar policies, such as those designed to give workers a voice in decision-making at the workplace, proved to be short-lived.\u

Topics: UOW10
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Provided by: WestminsterResearch

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