After World War II France, as the rest of Europe, was in total disarray. There was widespread poverty, unemployment and dislocation and the United States was worried that this was causing the European voters to see the appeal of the communist parties. “In 1945 industrial production was 38% of what it had been in 1938. ” (P. 8, France Since 1945 by Robert Gildea) On June 5, 1947, U. S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall proposed the idea of a self-help plan, which would be financed by the United States that would help create stable conditions where democracy could survive.

This plan was formed under the basis of a unified plan for western European economic reconstruction under the name of the European Recovery Program (later known as the Marshall Plan). The plan ran from 1948 to 1951 and over those next four years a specially created bureau, the Economic Cooperation Administration (EEA) distributed over $13 billion worth of economic aid which helped restore industrial and agricultural production, establish financial stability, and expand trade.

The Marshall Plan was very successful and the countries involved experienced a 15 to 25 percent rise in their gross national product during the period of the program. The rapid renewal of the European chemical, engineering and steel industries is due to the plan. France benefited from the Marshall Plan and later joined the permanent organisation that it grew into, the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC). Since 1947 the French economy has been governed by a succession of national plans to indicate growth targets and development strategies.

Between 1960 and 1973 the increase in gross domestic product averaged nearly 6 percent a year. The period from the post war to the mid-1970’s was called the trente glorieuses because of the unprecedented growth. France was also one of the six original countries to sign the Treaty of Rome creating the European Economic Community (EEC), thereby extending its opportunities to export its products. In the post war years the increase in demand for energy closely followed the rate of economic growth.

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In the immediate post war period coal was the major source of energy production but by the 1960’s two thirds of energy consumption was provided by crude oil because the price was relatively low at that time. In 1973 and 1979 there were two oil price rises caused recession and measures to conserve energy. It was also in the early 1970’s that nuclear power was given an greatly increased role in energy supply as the French government implemented a major investment program. From the mid-1980’s the energy consumption increased again as growth recovered and oil prices fell.

By 1990 nearly 75 percent of electricity in France was produced by nuclear power plants, the highest proportion in the world. France has also exploited sites for hydroelectric power. Natural gas is also distributed throughout France by mean of pipelines from the main national and foreign sources of supplies e. g. 22 percent from Algeria. A prime example of post-war technological development has been France’s aerospace industry.In 1970 Airbus Industrie was formed: a European aircraft manufacturing consortium, to produce large capacity, short/medium range aircraft to compete with long-established American manufacturers such as Boeing company and McDonnell Douglas.

Members of Airbus include Aerospatiale of France (97 percent government-owned), which has a 37. 9 percent stake along with Germany (37. 9 percent), Britain (20 percent), Spain (4. percent); Belgium and (the Netherlands) are also members. France was the third nation after the United States and the Soviet Union to launch a Satellite (1965). France is a member of the European Space Agency (ESA), which developed the Ariane expendable launcher during the 1970’s; as a response to US refusal to guarantee flights for communications satellites, which might compete with their telecommunications carriers.

The Michelin Tire Company has long been regarded as the most innovative of tire companies in the world and competitors have copied many of its inventions. Michelin invented steel belted radial tyres in 1948 and are currently working on the revolutionary run-flat tyre, code named PAX. Michelin also have the most innovative manufacturing process code named C3M, requiring more automation and less labour.

In 1994 the first Eurostar train began the Paris to London rail link through the Channel Tunnel arriving in a time of 3 hours. As a result of the Marshall Plan and American aid to rebuild France, it had to open its markets to American imports including films. This threatened the French film industry with extinction. However after 1959 French cinema took off with the coming of the New Wave and the main directors involved Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard.

In 1975 there were agreements reached between television companies and the film industry, which provided finance for film production and a quota of 50% for films of French origin and limited the televising of films at weekends to promote cinema going at prime time The French government even mobilised the European Commission to defend French films by exempting cultural products from the GATT agreement on free trade in 1993. France has often been quite slow in comparison to other European countries in acquiring new technologies such as television, satellite, cable and Internet.

In 1963 there were only 3. 5 million TV sets in France compared to 12. 5 million in Great Britain. After that though TV took off quickly: the proportion of French households with a TV set was 15% in 1960; 70% in 1970; 90% in 1980 and 95% in 1990. France was also rather late entering the multimedia era partly due to the performance of Minitel, which is one of the early forms of the Internet. Now with more than two billion calls and 115 million hours of Internet connection a year France is the foremost consumer of online services in the world.

In mid-1997 France had 1. 12 million internet users equalling 2. 4% of French people over 15 years, but in the following 12 months until mid-1998 the tally went up until France had 2. 1 million users equalling 5% of French people over 15 years. Newspapers in France have a long history and strong tradition, the first one being founded in 1631. At the beginning of World War II there were thirty daily papers in Paris but the number declined sharply after the war especially after competition from radio and later television.

The French chanson was like poetry set to music, which was one reason for the delay of the rock revolution in France. Although French musicians and singers were often influenced by American and British style rock music such as Elvis and the Beatles, singers like Johnny Halliday, Michel Sardou, Serge Gainsbourg and Patricia Kaas all had their own inimitable styles. Under pressure from the music business the French minister of culture sponsored a law that gave French songs 40% of airtime on French radio. I agree with John Ardagh’s opinion that the French nation and society has been changed drastically since 1945.

Although the French have always resisted change because of their immense pride in their culture and heritage, they have ultimately given way and managed to preserve their culture while at the same time often ending up at the forefront of technology and mass media in the modern world. As you will notice, often due to France’s reluctance to embrace the modern technological world and competition from foreign companies, mass media and culture, the French government has had to intervene at appropriate moments to save French industry, technology and culture with large amounts of financial aid and laws aimed in their favour.


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