THE CONCEPT OF “LES TRENTE GLORIEUSES” FROM 1945-1975October 2, 2006 at 2:34 am | Posted in Economics, France, Globalization, History | 4 Comments
Les Trentes Glorieuses
France & Europe 1945-1975
les trentes glorieuses – that is to say, the thirty glorious years between 1945 and 1975, or more accurately, between the liberation of France in 1944 to the economic downturn triggered by the oil crisis (crise pétrolière) of 1973.
Europe saw many changes in the
immediate post-war period. In part these changes were brought about by a prosperity that was largely the result of a stable world order – an international order led by the Americans – in which major investments took place to rebuild national economies damaged by war. In many European countries – and France is certainly no exception here – there was an unbroken period of economic prosperity and rising standards of living which lasted until
the 1970s. In France the name given to this period of growth, prosperity and abrupt social change was les trentes glorieuses – that is to say, the thirty glorious years between 1945 and 1975, or more accurately, between the liberation of France in 1944 to the economic downturn triggered by the oil crisis (crise pétrolière) of 1973.
Here is Kristin Ross on this period in French history:
The speed with which French society was transformed after the war from a rural, empire-oriented, Catholic country into a fully industrialized, decolonized and urban one meant that the things modernization needed – educated middle managers, for instance, or
affordable automobiles and other `mature’ consumer durables, or a set of social siences that followed scientific, functionalist models, or a work force of ex-colonial laborers – burst onto a society that still cherished prewar outlooks with all the force, excitement,
disruption, and horror of the genuinely new. (Ross: 1996 p.4)
At the end of the Second World War France was, as you might expect, it was happy to be liberated but the devastation caused by war and enemy occupation was everywhere. Industrial production was down to half of its
pre- war level and agriculture was at a complete standstill due to an absence of men and machinery.
The priority was recovery and the key words were remise en marche and redémarrage. The injunction everywhere was to produce (produire!), with a distinct stress on collective effort – phrases like bas les vestes et haut les coeurs!, retroussons nos manches! and et, hop, on s’en sortira! became part of the political discourse of the day.
France was soon on its feet with industrial output up to pre-war levels by 1947. This was largely achieved by a number of initiatives. Firstly, there was the active role of the state in industry oversaw the nationalisation of public utilities (e.g. CDF – Charbonnages de France; EDF – Électricité de France; GDF – Gaz de France), airlines (Air France), banks (Banque de France) and many other private companies like the Renault car factory (Régie Nationale des Usines Renault).
As a result of these nationalisations, France became the most state-controlled
capitalist country in the world. Another factor behind economic recovery was the Marshall Aid Plan an American initiative which gave grants, loans and subsidies to struggling post-war nations. The issue of raising the birth rate was an additional factor in France’s industrial recovery: more babies meant more demand for goods and services and more potential worker-consumers. There was a clear link, then, between production and reproduction, conception and consumption. Immigration too played a central role in the
economic modernisation and growth that characterises les trente glorieuses.
The New Affluence
Les trente glorieuses witnessed rapid economic growth. For those who like their statistics neat, between 1945and 1975 the economy grew on average by 5% per annum, which was a considerable economic achievement at the time. Both industry and agriculture were undergoing a process of
As a result of full employment, rising wages, and increasing holiday provision, new patterns of consumption and leisure activities began to emerge. A newly affluent working-class began to enjoy a higher standard of living than ever before in the history of France. Les trente glorieuses were the years of the ` affluent worker’ and one writer, André Gorz, even went so far as to claim that the working class was disappearing (`adieu à la classe ouvrière’). Although disparities in levels of income renamed significant, there was, on average, a 6% increase in people’s real incomes. The higher incomes and increased spending power of post-war France, and in particular, of the 1950s and 1960s, was created by economic growth and rising productivity.
The Consumer Society
This newly prosperous working-class
was anxious to enjoy the possessions and lifestyle hitherto afforded only by the middle-class and the wealthy – la société de consommation had arrived in France.
Frenchmen and women enjoyed longer holidays: in little over a decade the average annual holiday had increased from three weeks in 1956 to four weeks in 1969. Some middle-class French looked on this phenomena with alarm as their formerly exclusive resorts became open to more and more people – les prolos à la plage) as they were sometimes contemptuously known. A number of consumer durables came to symbolise this new age of prosperity and consumer aspiration: the refrigerator, the washing machine, the television
and the car. By the end of the 1950s, for instance, 7.5% of French families owned a refrigerator, 10% a washing machine, 26% a television and 21% a car (Price: 1993 p.292).
The car became a particularly visible emblem of France’s new prosperity. In 1939, for example, there were an estimated 500,000 cars in the Paris region. In 1960, there were a million and in 1965 there were 2 million (Ross: 1996 p.53). The city had to adapt to the pressure of increasing car use and in 1956 the Périphérique, the motorway circling Paris was begun. The Right Bank Expressway along the Seine was finished in 1967. This increase
was due not just to higher standards of living but to motor vehicule manufacturers targetting a new mass market. The Renault 4CV, launched in 1947, and widely seen as the first truly affordable mass market French saloon car is a good example of this.
Les trentes glorieuses also witnessed the rapid process of urbanisation and for this reason it is sometimes characterized as les années de béton. Between 1946 and 1985 the population grew from 40.3 million to 55 million, 69% of whom were now living in towns or cities compared with 51% before the war. (Price: 1993 p.273). In 1945 housing conditions in the cities were little different from those of the nineteenth century. The housing stock was old –
most of it nineteenth-century – and lacking modern amenities like bathrooms, kitchens and running water. In 1954 more than a third of all households lacked running water and only 17.5% had a either a bath or a shower (Price: 1993 p.292). Overcrowding was a major problem however. As late as 1962 in fact, a census classified one flat in four as overcrowded and recorded that 60% of all housing stock predated 1914. Housing stock was not only in poor condition but it was also in high demand. Increasing numbers of Frenchmen
and women were moving from the country to the city and, just as important, increasing
numbers of Frenchmen and women were deciding to have children.
The rising birth rate exacerbated the already serious problem of overcrowding.
The ideal for most young couples in France was a modern home with all the now necessary
amenities of modern living. A model of cleanliness and logical design like the show
kitchen featured in Femina pratique (May 1955) below:
As France grew wealthier, some sociologists were quick to note that French society was
beginning to withdraw into the private space of the home. The home became a space where
new desires of comfortable, modern living were created. Happiness was to be found within
the four walls of le foyer. This, of course, is one of the main themes of
Rochefort’s Les petits enfants du siècle. Here is Kristin Ross on this trend:
On the national level France retreats within the hexagon, withdraws from empire,
retrenches within its borders at the same time as those boundaries are becoming newly
permeable to a whirlwind of economic forces – forces far more destructive of some received
notion of `national culture’ than any immigrant community could muster. The movement
inward – a whole complex process … that Castoriadis, Moran, and Lefebvre all called
`privatization’ – is a movement echoed on the level of everyday life by the withdrawal of
the new middle classes to their newly comfortable domestic interiors, to the electric
kitchens, to the enclosure of private automobiles, to the interior of a new vision of
conjugality and an ideology of happiness built around the new unit of middle- class
comsumption, the couple, and to depoliticization as a response to the increase in
bureaucratic control of daily life. (Ross: 1996 p.11)
Massive investment in France’s housing infrastructure took place in the 1950s and 1960s
to address the nation’s needs. From 1954 onwards, new building projects began to be
realised – les grandes ensembles – often supplanting as well as complementing
existing housing stock. At its peak, some 400,000 properties – modern, sanitised,
standardised and suburban – were created each year. One striking example of the council
estates created after 1954 was Sarcelles situated near Le Bourget airport. Interestingly
enough, it had a population of over 40,000 yet had neither secondary school nor cultural
centre. It created a new kind of psychological depression or new- town blues that rapidly
acquired its own name: Sarcellitis.
The Rural Exodus
The principal migratory movement from the middle of the nineteenth century until the
late 1960s was from rural to urban. In those one hundred or so years, France experienced a
rural exodus as more and more people moved from jobs in agriculture in the countryside to
jobs in industry and the service sector in the cities and the suburbs of France.
Changes in transport infrastructure from the nineteenth century onwards, like the
construction of the railways, and cultural factors like the increased provision of primary
education and the introduction of military service opened new horizons for many young men
and women who would have otherwise spent their lives in the field or the farmhouse.
During the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s – the so-called années de béton – there was
much movement from city to suburb. This process of urban deconcentration was necessary due
to the shortage, and general poor quality of housing stock in urban centres and was made
possible by the large-scale construction of housing estates on the edges of most French
The Baby Boom
The most common population pattern in nineteenth-century Europe was rapid growth with
fertility rates exceeding mortality rates in countries like Britain and Germany. This was
not the case in France, however, which experienced a period of population stagnation
caused by low levels of fertility (due to a desire to limit inheritance to fewer children,
the practice of coitus interruptus, comparatively late marriage of women and higher
levels of celibacy) and higher than average levels of infant mortality (due to poor
sanitation, nutrition and healthcare).
In 1881, for example, the birth rate in France was 25 per 1,000 as opposed to 35 per
1,000 in Britain. Throughout the nineteenth century the population of France grew from 28
million to 40 million (an increase of 43%) as opposed to the growth of the German
population from 22 to 63 million (an increase of 186%) and Britain from 16 to 40 million
(an increase of 150%).
This low level of fertility continued into the twentieth century and, indeed, was
exacerbated by such events as the First World War (1914- 1918) which claimed 1.3 million
lives, the influenza epidemic of 1919 and the Second World War (1939-1945). Indeed, it is
following France’s military defeats of 1870 and the First World War, that France’s falling
birth rate became a subject of much concern at the highest level of French political life.
During the years of the Third Republic (1870-1914), successive French governments
adopted a pronatalist line, i.e. a policy that explicitly sought to encourage a rise in
the birth rate. In the 1920s, for example, both abortion and the sale of contraceptives
were prohibited and in 1939 the Code de la famille was introduced with a range of
financial incentives for married couples with children. During les années noires
of Nazi occupation between 1940 and 1944, the Vichy government – whose slogan was Famille,
Travail, Patrie – adopted a similar pronatalist line and established a Ministry of
Population (1940) and introduced the death penalty for back-street abortionists (les
It was not really until the middle of the 1940s that such measures began to work and
the years between 1943 and 1965 see the so-called `baby boom’. The policies of earlier
governments were taking effect and this, plus the post- war coalition government’s stress
on boosting the birth rate – in a speech made in 1945 De Gaulle wanted to see `en dix ans,
douze millions de beaux bébés pour la France’ (`twelve million bouncing babies for
France in the space of ten years) – saw the beginning of `le baby boom’.
Between those years the number of births (14 million) in France greatly exceeded the
number of deaths (9 million). The rates of infant mortality fell and more and more young
couples, encouraged by state incentives (family allowances, tax relief, housing
allowances, cheaper transport and cinema tickets etc.) had larger and larger families. A
negative side of this increase in the birth rate was the conservative attitude to gender
roles that accompanied it. Women returned to the home – le retour au foyer – and a
climate of what one might call regressive sexual politics prevailed.
By the mid-1960s however, the `baby boom’ had slowed down. The changing attitudes of
women to work, the availability of contraception (legalised in 1967 under la Loi
Neuwirth) and abortion (legalised in 1975 under la Loi Veil) led to a change in
cultural attitudes and a slowing down of the birth rate in France.
French society then, was undergoing a period of rapid change but in many important ways
it also remained profoundly untouched. It remained a society in which class, race and
gender inequality was perpetuated despite the apparent transformations within the fabric
of French society.
You might like to supplement your reading of these notes by clicking on:
One very interesting commentator on a variety of social and cultural developments
during the first half of les trente glorieuses is Roland Barthes. You can find
lectures on his best-known work, Mythologies (1975) at:
In terms of old-fashioned books, there are many in the Main Library
(Chester Road) directly relevant to les trentes glorieuses:
J. Ardagh, The New France: A Society in Transition 1945-1973 (Harmondsworth:
Penguin, 1973. 2nd. edition)
M. Cook (ed.), French Culture since 1945 (London: Longman, 1993)
C. Duchen , Women’s Rights and Women’s Lives in France 1944- 1968 (London:
C. Dyer, Population and Society in Twentieth Century France (London: Hodder and
J.E. Flower, France Today (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1993) 7th edition.
J. Forbes & M. Kelly (eds), French Cultural Studies: An Introduction
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995)
J.F. Hollifield & G. Ross (eds), Searching for the New France (London:
C. Laubier, The Condition of Women in France: 1945 to the Present. A Documentary
Anthology (London: Routledge, 1990)
J. MacMillan, Twentieth-Century France: Politics and Society 1898- 1991 (London:
Edward Arnold, 1992)
R. Price, A Concise History of France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
K. Ross, Fast Cars, Clean Bodies: Decolonization and the Reordering of French
Culture (London & Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1996)
H.P.M. Winchester, Contemporary France (London: Longman, 1993)
V. Wright, The Government and Politics of France (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989) 3rd
Introduction to Postwar French Cinema:
In the next two culture lectures of
this module on postwar France, we’ll be examining Maurice Pialat’s Passe ton bac
d’abord (1979). I want to preface those lectures, however, with an introductory
lecture on postwar French cinema, one of the areas of French culture that enjoyed an
extraordinary renaissance during les Trente Glorieuses. Between 1960 and
1993 France produced more films per year than any other European country. Moreover, many
of those films established France’s reputation as a maker of innovative and high-quality
Cinema is taken seriously in France with a variety of magazines dedicated to it – Cahiers
du cinéma, Première, Studio Magazine – as well as other forms of media
coverage. France is also host to over a dozen film festivals, including of course, the
Cannes film festival. In recent years, France has played a determining role in the
creation of what is called the `European audio-visual space’. It has helped establish a
development fund for film production within the European community, has secured adequate
quotas for screening EC productions, as opposed to American imports, on television, and,
in 1993, ensured the exemption of audio-vidual products from the GATT agreement.
Audio-visual media, and in particular, cinema, matters in France.
The “Banlieues” and Les trentes glorieuses:
A Brief History of the French Suburbs
The word banlieue
dates back to the Middle Ages and comes from two words: the Germanic word bann (authority)
and the Latin word leuca (league – approx 4km). The banlieue was originally an area
of around one league outside the fortified wall of a city and which was subject that
city’s legal jurisdiction. Initially, these early banlieues were the locations for
certain kinds of activities – agricultural, industrial and commercial – that were
essential to the economic life of the town or city on whose outskirts they were situated.
The early banlieues also played a role in the military defence of the city they
encircled. By the early seventeenth century the les banlieues were no longer
subject to the legal authority of the main city and the term was simply used to designate
those suburban developments enjoying population growth. It’s important to note that there
were many aristocratic banlieues (e.g. Versailles, Sceaux, Saint-Germain-en-Laye,
Saint-Cloud) which emerged at the end of the seventeenth century and which remain
prestigious districts today.
The Nineteenth Century
The banlieues really began to grow in the nineteenth century and this rapid
growth was directly related to their earlier role, that is to say, as sites for certain
the agricultural, industrial and commercial activities central to the economic life of the
city. With France’s developing industrialisation and the increasing economic importance of
major cities like Paris, Lyon, Lille and so on, les banlieues too began to grow,
expanding in rythmn with the cities they surrounded.
A development central to the expansion of les banlieues was the migration of
large numbers of Frenchmen and women from rural to urban. Important changes in transport
infrastructure (e.g. the construction of the railways) as well as cultural factors (e.g.
the increased provision of primary education, introduction of military service) opened new
horizons for many young men and women who would have otherwise spent their lives in the
field and the farmhouse.
Moreover, urban developments like Haussmanization, the
modernization of Paris under the reign of Napoléon III, accelerated the growth of les
banlieues parisiennes by uprooting working-class communities in the city centre
forcing them outwards to the eastern arrondissements
or to les banlieues. Already, in the nineteeth century the
idea of the banlieues and of a predominantly working-class population are closely linked.
The Early Twentieth Century
The growth of les banlieues in the early twentieth century went hand in hand
with France’s continued industrialisation and with the arrival of large numbers of
immigrant workers, mainly from European countries like Italy, Spain and Poland, who
entered the country to help address France’s labour shortage.
With France’s transformation into a modern industrialized nation came the growth of a
large industrial working class with its own flourishing professional, social and cultural
organisations to protect its interests. Many of these industrial working class communities
lived in les banlieues and the years between the two world wars (1920s and 1930s)
saw the emergence of les banlieues rouges or la ceinture rouge of
working-class communities bound together by a shared workplace, trade union and common
political allegiances. The so-called banlieues rouges reached their peak in the
mid-1930s with the electoral sucess of left- wing coalition of Le Front Populaire.
The image of les banlieues rouges stands in sharp opposition to that of the
present-day banlieues: les banlieues rouges were the places where impoverished but
struggling communities were engaged in a collective fight to improve their living
The Mid-Twentieth Century
The key years of suburban growth in France however, occurred during les trente
glorieuses. Les trentes glorieuses witnessed the rapid growth of les banlieues with
some 3 million council properties (logements sociaux) built between 1955 and 1975
to help meet France’s housing needs. Postwar France, it should be remembered, suffered
from an acute shortage of accommodation, overcrowding, a delapidated housing stock in need
of modernization and a large population resident in the so-called bidonvilles (shantytowns) that were found in
most large cities and were only replaced in the 1970s (the bidonville at Nanterre
was one of the last to go). This housing shortage was aggravated by both the `baby boom’
of the 1950s and 1960s and increasing numbers of immigrants, this time mainly from north
and sub-Saharan Africa.
These years then, are the so-called années de béton,
the years in which bulldozers and cement mixers worked overtime to clear France’s
overcrowded inner city slums and bidonvilles and to produce clean, modern homes, the
majority of which were large high- rise estate situated in suburbs districts. These new
homes were called Habitations à Loyer Modéré and the large estates known as as grands
The Late Twentieth Century
The golden age of clean and modern homes created during les trentes glorieuses didn’t
last long. The economic recession, initially triggered by the oil crisis of 1973, marked
the end of the boom years. Redundancies, factory closures and, of course, increasing
unemployment began to have a dramatic impact on the social cohesion and living conditions
of les banlieues. The economic growth of les trentes glorieuse had come to
an abrupt end and much of the ambitious housing built during this period found itself
poorly suited to the changing economic climate. Those housing estates, for example, that
were built close to factories to meet the needs of their workers soon found themselves
with large proportion of unemployed tenants who found themselves stranded in a suburban
desert. A good example of this is the Cité des 3 000 in Aulnay-sous-Bois – itself
subject to four nights of rioting in October 1993 – as described by François Maspero in Les
Passagers du Roissy-Express (Maspero: 1990 pp.49-57).
On top of the negative effects of the economic downturn, les banlieues began to
experience the exodus of their wealthier residents. The affluence generated in the boom
years of les trentes glorieuses led to many of the higher-income families (skilled
or semi-skilled workers, lower management etc.) moving away from the high-rise council
estates where they had lived in the 1960s and early 1970s to private suburban estates. As
they became owner- occupiers, they left behind them communities that were increasingly
made up of those on low incomes. Those residents who could not afford to move out remained
in these suburban grands ensembles facing rapidly deteriorating social conditions
and a further impoverishment of amenities available to them. The feelings of isolation
created by the geographical isolation of les banlieues from the city – most are cut
off by various communications arteries (motorways, railway lines etc.) – were exacerbated
by the decline in living conditions and many residents came to feel themselves captives in
hostile social desert.
Hervé Vieillard-Baron sums up the
transformation from dream home to ghetto in his recent book les banlieues:
Les signes de rupture apparaissent à la fin de la période [les trentes glorieuses]: la périphérique devient l’anti-modèle. Ses qualités se
sont épuisées au point de connaître un retournement spectaculaire: ce qui était le
produit de la réforme part à la dérive. Les couches moyennes désertent; les ménages
s’isolent; les discours sur l’insécurité et le refus des étrangers se banalisent.
(Vieillard-Baron: 1996 p.79)
By the very end of les trentes glorieuses the banlieues
were beginning to be perceived to be a problem that would require urgent attention. As
early as 1976, an initiative called Habitat et vie sociale was introduced to
improve the living conditions in many suburbs, with many similar initiatives following in
The banlieues and France’s Ethnic
The rise in the immigrant population
on the poorest estates – immigrant families were often allocated accomodation in the worst
estates (Hargreaves: 1995 p.72) – led to the perception, prevalent amongst many residents
and exploited by political parties like Le Front national, that the deteriorating living
conditions of the estates were, in fact, directly attributable to their ethnic minority
residents. The media coverage of the numerous riots that took place in les banlieues since
the early 1980s, but most spectacularly in 1990 and 1991, and of the growing parallel
economy (`l’économie parallèle’ or `l’économie de la rue’) of drug dealing and robbery
intensified the public perception that the `problem’ of les banlieues was also a
problem that directly related to France’s ethnic minorities and to the alledgedly
unassimilable young men of North and sub-Saharan African origin.
Azouz Begag and Christian Delorme summarize well the transformation of les banlieues
in their book Quartiers sensibles:
Dans les espaces où les aménageurs ont cherché la cohabitation harmonieuse des
différences, avec pour objectif un enrichissement mutuel, se sont accumulés handicaps et
vulnerabilité, pour finalement faire surgir le spectre du ghetto. (A. Begag & C.
Delorme: 1994 pp.14-15)
It became common for journalists as well as certain politicians to claim that the
disturbances in France’s banlieues were akin to the racial violence of America’s
ghettos. There is, however, little evidence to support this claim. Despite their heavy
concentration of residents from ethnic minorities, France’s banlieues are more mixed than
American inner-city ghetto like Harlem or the Bronx and white European residents remain in
the majority on most estates. Moreover, whereas many black American ghettos are
predominantly mono-ethnic, that is to say, dominated by one particular ethnic group, such
a population composition is highly unusual for a French banlieue. Multi-ethnic banlieues
are, with just a few exceptions, the norm in France.
A study of Sarcelles in 1990, for example, showed a highly heterogeneous population mix
of around 80 nationalities (Vieillard-Baron: 1996 p. 80). This broad mixing of ethnic
groups didn’t occur by accident as many housing departments actively discouraged the over-
representation of any one ethnic group on a particular estate with the aim of ensuring la mixité
sociale. It is, however, certainly the case that there are a few banlieues with
a higher than average concentration of one ethnic group like the North African communities
in Garges- lès-Gonesse, Saint-Denis, Mantes-la-Jolie, Vénissieux (Vieillard-Baron: 1996
pp. 881-2). One might also add here that living conditions are also better in France with
lower levels of poverty (a better benefit system, healthcare etc.) and much lower levels
of violent crime.
Mathieu Kassovitz‘s representation of three young men of different
ethnic origin in La Haine might be said to be an accurate depiction of the
multi-ethnic reality of les banlieues, a faithful portrayal of young men who have
more in common – the same generation, the same socio-economic status (working-class and
unemployed) broadly the same lack of opportunities open to them – than they have
separating them. One might compare Kassovitz’s representation of a Parisian banlieue in
La Haine with Spike Lee’s representation of a New York inner city district in Do
the Right Thing. Whereas La Haine shows a solidarity created by socio-economic
exclusion and expressed through a shared youth culture (Afro-American in inspiration) that
cuts across ethnic divisions, Do the Right Thing reveals a predominantly
mono-ethnic district (Afro-American) in which ethnicity is all and in which the
Italian-Americans depicted are seen as not wholly part of the community.
The crisis in les banlieues is far from resolved. The recent success of le Front
National in the presidential elections of 2002 revealed the persistence of fears about the
‘crisis in the suburbs’ and France’s troubled acceptance of its multicultural society.
Henri Rey in his recent book La Peur des banlieues asked the following question:
À quoi renvoie la peur des banlieues? (Rey: 1996 p.9)
This is how he answered it:
[L]a peur des banlieues, c’est d’abord la peur que la société éprouve à l’égard
d’elle-même, une peur qu’une partie de ses membres tente d’exociser par le rejet de
l’autre. (Rey: 1996)
What do you understand by this claim? Jot down some notes on your own or in discussion
with one or more of your peers. Once you have some ideas on paper click here for some
Tahar Ben Jelloun, Les Raisins de la galère (Paris: Fayard, 1996)
Thierry Jonquet, La Vie de ma mère (Paris: Gallimard, 1994)
Dictionary of l’argot des cités:
C. Bechmann & L. Basier, Mise en images d’une banlieue ordinaire: stigmatisations
urbaines et stratégies de communication (Paris: Syros/Alternatives, 1989)
A. Begag & C. Delorme, Quartiers sensibles (Paris: Seuil, 1994)
F. Dubet, La Galère: jeunes en survie (Paris: Fayard, 1987)
A. Jazouli, Les Années banlieues (Paris: Seuil, 1992)
A. Jazouli, Une Saison en banlieue (Paris: Plon, 1995)
F. Maspero, Les Passagers du Roissy-Express (Paris: Seuil, 1990)
P. Merlin, Les Banlieues (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1999)
J. Menanteau, Les Banlieues (Paris: Le Monde-Editions, 1994)
D. Pinson, Des Banlieues et des villes (Paris: Éditions Ouvrières, 1992)
H. Rey, La Peur des banlieues (Paris: Presses des Science Po, 1996)
J-M. Stébé, La Crise des banlieues (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1999)
H. Vieillard-Baron, Les Banlieues (Paris: Flammarion, 1996)
Occurring at the midpoint of the Third Republic,
the Belle Époque was considered a golden time of beauty, innovation, and peace
between France and its European neighbors. New inventions made life easier at all social
levels, the cultural scene thrived, cabaret, cancan, and the cinema were born, and art took new forms with Impressionism
and Art Nouveau. Art and architecture
in the style of this era in other nations is also sometimes called “Belle
Époque” style. Mexico was especially known for adopting
the Belle Époque style during the Porfiriato, and
as a result, many constructions followed the Art Nouveau
trend, such as the central kiosk at the Arms Square in Guadalajara, and Lafayette Avenue, a boulevard in
the same city, known nowadays as Chapultepec Avenue, and styled after the French
boulevards of that time.
While art and innovation flourished, this time period also saw the rise of working-class militancy and organized socialist movements. These conflicts as well as various
political scandals furthered a national division between the “Left” and the “Right.” Regardless, this time period is
remembered in France as a golden time of the past that was shattered by the outbreak of
World War I.
Musically, the Belle Époque was characterized by salon
music. This was not “serious” music but, rather, short pieces (some happy,
some sad, but all accessible). In addition to pieces for piano solo, violin and piano,
etc., the Belle Époque was famous for its large repertory of songs
(mélodies, romanze, etc.). Unlike serious German Lieder,
these were songs that tugged at the heart strings. The Italians were the greatest
proponents of this type of song, its greatest champion being Francesco Paolo Tosti. Though Tosti’s songs never
fully left the repertoire, salon music in general fell
into a period of deep obscurity. Even as encores, singers were afraid to sing them at
- In France, the “Belle Époque” quarter in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne
(Normandy) is famous for its superb bourgeois villas with
polychrome façades, bow windows and unique roofing that are typical of the turn-of-the-century architecture
The Belle Epoque
in Europe (in English, French, German, Italian, many pictures of Art Nouveau
This Marcel Pagnol-based movie opens in 1900 and announces an era of science, peace, progress.
A young boy’s life in turn-of-the-century France. Marcel, witnesses the success of his teacher father, as well as the success of his arrogant Uncle Jules. Marcel and family spend their summer vacation in a cottage in Provence, and Marcel befriends a local boy who
teaches him the secrets of the hills in Provence.
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