Socialized Credit and the Working Class Family Economy: A Comparative History

Gilles Laferté and Sean O’Connell

This paper offers a comparative analysis of working-class consumer credit in Britain and France in the C20th. It indicates a number of similarities between the two nations in the earlier part of the period: in particular, in the operation of doorstep credit systems.  In both nations, this operated on highly socialised terms that created long-term creditor/borrower relationships. In the second section, we analyse the different trajectories taken in post-war France and Britain in this area of credit. In France this form of socialized credit gradually dwindled due to factors such as ‘Bancarisation’, as banks offered modern bureaucratized credit. In Britain, the tallymen (and other related forms of doorstep credit providers) were offered a new lease of life in the 1960s and 1970s as credit providers used this traditional method to evade government hire purchase controls. The British experience was one of fragmented consumer loan types (including the continuation of doorstep credit and the creation of a large sub-prime credit market), whilst France (like elsewhere in Europe) witnessed greater consolidation. The paper concludes by reflecting on the role of these developments in the creation of differential experiences of credit inclusion/exclusion in the two nations and the impact of this on financial inequality.