Abstract: Foreign Trade and Protectionism in a French Region at the End of the Nineteenth Century

Bruno Jégou


I examine the effects of free trade and the return of protectionism at the end of the nineteenth century in Brie, a small French region close to Paris. The study is based on the Industrial Statistics, an administrative source comprising data on all of the companies in the region, particularly items pertaining to the firms' economic situation. Careful analysis demonstrates the pertinence of this source without overlooking its limitations. Using Industrial Statistics, I identified factors promoting and hindering the growth of companies in the region and assessed the relative importance of international trade in the regional economy. I consider the diverse situations in each branch to determine the importance of international trade in export markets and foreign competition in a mainly free-trade context. In general, the global effects of free trade established in 1860 do not seem to be as negative as the return to protectionism in 1892 (the end of the period examined) would suggest. In addition, it is interesting that the competitive strategies observed were often very modern, similar to those observed today.

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