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Les conséquences économiques de la Révolution française. Réflexions sur un débat

Listed author(s):
  • François M. Crouzet
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    [fre] Les conséquences économiques de la Révolution française. Réflexions sur un débat La Révolution de 1789 a-t-elle été force de libération ou facteur de retard pour l'économie française ? La première partie de l'article analyse les difficultés auxquelles se heurte toute tentative de réponse à cette question. On montre ensuite comment des perturbations de court terme ont pu modifier durablement le cours de l'histoire économique française. Ainsi, les séquelles de l'inflation révolutionnaire ont marqué les comportements financiers du XIXe siècle ; l'anéantissement du grand commerce maritime et colonial a été dans une large mesure irréversible ; la rupture des relations avec l'Angleterre a aggravé de dix ou vingt ans le retard technologique de l'industrie française. La Révolution, il est vrai, peut être créditée d'une modernisation institutionnelle propre à favoriser le développement. Mais le changement institutionnel, à lui seul, ne peut que créer des virtualités, qui seront ou non exploitées selon les circonstances ; or, en détournant les talents vers le service de l'État, les événements ont contrecarré en France l'essor de l'activité d'entreprise. A l'égard de l'agriculture, les conséquences de la Révolution ont été ambiguës, mais foncièrement conservatrices. La conclusion met en garde contre toute exagération de l'impact positif ou négatif de la Révolution de 1789 sur la croissance à long terme de l'économie française. [eng] The economic consequences of the french revolution : some comments Was the French Revolution a catalyst of economie growth, by freeing entre-preneurial initiative, or a retardative factor ? The first part examines the manyfold methodological difficulties which confront any attempt at assessing the impact of the political events of 1789-1815 on economie development. Then we show how short run disruptions could have lasting effects on the course of French economic history. Thus the inflationary episode of the 1790's left a durable mark on the French behaviour patterns in the financial sphere though the 19th century ; the Atlantic sector, and specially the colonial trade never fully recovered from their sudden collapse during the revolutionary years ; the breaking in the economic relations with England meant, for French inclustry, a severe deepening of the technological gap. The Revolution, on the other hand, may be credited of a definite improvement regarding some institutional pre-conditions of economie development. Institutional change, however, can do no more by itself than to offer new opportunities ; whether they will be seized or not depends on circumstances ; in napoleonic and post-napoleonic France, the diversion of many talents towards the public service hampered the expansion of entrepreneurial activities. As for the agricultural consequences of the French Revolution, they were ambiguous, but mostly conservative. Altogether, the argument tends to discard the one-sided views stressing either the positive or negative consequences on the long run development of the French economy.

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    Article provided by Programme National Persée in its journal Revue économique.

    Volume (Year): 40 (1989)
    Issue (Month): 6 ()
    Pages: 1189-1203

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    Handle: RePEc:prs:reveco:reco_0035-2764_1989_num_40_6_409190
    Note: DOI:10.3406/reco.1989.409190
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