Abstract: The Great Depression? Challenging the Periodization of French Business History in the Interwar Period

Florence Brachet-Champsaur and Ludovic Cailluet

Abstract

In this essay we aim to demonstrate that economic and business historians' tendency to use moments of severe economic turbulence as turning points does not always fit with a periodization based on corporate change. In fact, our essay shows that the economic downturn of the early 1930s did not impact all companies' long-term strategies the same way and that it sometimes fostered management innovations or helped to reinforce nascent ideas. To illustrate our point we have chosen to look at two companies that, despite the Great Depression, developed new administrative methods and marketing innovations. They acted not only in a defensive mode but also to prepare for better times. The cases were deliberately taken from very different sectors. The first deals with heavy industry, using the metallurgy and chemicals company AFC-Pechiney; the second considers the family-owned and -managed retail group Galeries Lafayette.

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