The development of France in the post-revolutionary period is characterised by what Georges Lefebvre described as a ‘gigantic paradox’. Although the country had experienced ‘the greatest revolution in the history of the world’ (Karl Marx), in economic terms nothing seemed to have changed much. The political and social institutions of the old regime — the absolute monarchy, noble privileges, the established church — had been torn up by the roots, but the economy trundled along on its ponderous path more or less unaffected. It was all very well to blame the delay on the inevitable birth-pains of a new order or on the effects of the war, but such excuses were wearing thin a hundred years later, for — as Clive Trebilcock has written — ‘by 1900 France was clearly the economic laggard among the powers and not even the unusually energetic progress of the belle époque could erase the languid and spasmodic growth pattern of the preceding century and a half .
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- Aftermath: Napoleon and Beyond
T. C. W. Blanning
- Macmillan Education UK
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