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French Entrepreneurship and Industrial Growth in the Nineteenth Century


  • Landes, David S.


The study of French enterprise and entrepreneurship is rewarding for two major reasons. In the first place, anything that will help explain the present weakness of French industry and commerce throws light in turn on one of the most important political phenomena of the last 150 years: the fall of France from hegemony under Napoleon to the position she holds today. Secondly, the history of French business and businessmen is significant precisely because of France's relatively minor place in the economic world. If we are to weigh the validity of the recent emphasis of theorists on the role of the entrepreneur qua se in the over-all process of economic change—on the contribution of the personal element to the impersonal operation of the system—we must consider not only the more “modern†nations but those less industrialized as well. It will not suffice to study the progress of American or German business and deduce therefrom impressive theories on the importance of the businessman. The converse must also be examined: To what extent are certain attitudes and values inimical to the development of enterprise ? Or concretely in the case of France, to what extent have the character and mentality of the French financier, industrialist, or merchant been responsible for the relatively retarded status of the country's economy ?

Suggested Citation

  • Landes, David S., 1949. "French Entrepreneurship and Industrial Growth in the Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(1), pages 45-61, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:9:y:1949:i:01:p:45-61_09

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