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Great Depression in France


The Depression took longer to have an impact on France because the French Economy depended less on international trade. However, when the slump did start in France it had a very damaging effect. After 1933 French industry went through a great crisis. As late as 1938 France had still failed to restore the level of national income to that of the 1920s.


As in Britain, the slump had an impact on defense. With a huge debt for money borrowed during the First World War and war pensions, the French government could not give its armed forces adequate weapons. The production of new aircraft fell and compared very badly with output in Germany. In one year, 1937, the French built 370 military aircraft while the Germans built 5,606.


The economic problems added to the bitter social divisions that existed in France. Unemployment trebled between 1931 and 1935. The membership of the French Communist Party rose dramatically at the same time. The Communist Party began to do very well in elections.


The crisis also led to a great surge in extreme right-wing political support. A right-wing demonstration in Paris during February 1934 turned into a riot in which 14 people were killed. The deep divisions between left and right in France between 1933 and 1936 stopped the French government from standing up to Hitler.