Creating the Welfare State in France, 1880-1940
A study of the politics of health care and unemployment policy at the national level and local level in French cities from the 1880s to 1940. Timothy ... Show synopsis A study of the politics of health care and unemployment policy at the national level and local level in French cities from the 1880s to 1940. Timothy Smith argues that although post-World War II politicians have attempted to take credit for the creation of welfare state, the social reform movement in France actually grew out of World War I. Smith shows that French social spending before World War II was well above the European average and demonstrates that the present welfare state is based on a structure that already existed but was expanded and consolidated with great political fanfare during the 1940s. Smith shows that France's most important social legislation to date - providing medical insurance, maternity benefits, modest pensions, and disability benefits to millions of people - was passed in 1928 (and amended and put into practice in 1930). This law, misrepresented in textbooks as being an utter failure, covered over 50 percent of the population by 1940. Few other nations could have claimed this sort of social insurance success. As well, by 1937 the centuries-old public assistance residency requirements had been transferred from the local to the departmental (regional) level. France's success in introducing important social reforms may require us to rethink - or at least modify - the common view of interwar France as a time of utter political, economic, and social failure.