The reality of France's '30 glorious' post-war boom years

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A three-decade period that began with the reconstruction of post-war France in 1945, which saw steady economic growth, full employment, the development of a consumer society and a baby-boom is widely known in the country as “les Trente Glorieuses”. Recurrent economic crises since have made many nostalgic of a long-gone, supposedly blissful “thirty glorious” years. But a number of historians argue that for most of the population there never was this golden age that has become a national legend. Nicolas Chevassus-au-Louis reports on the myth and reality of the Trente Glorieuses.

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Forty years ago, the French economy was hit by its first recession since the end of World War 2, when France’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) fell by 1% on the previous year. A similar loss of growth has occurred on two occasions since (a fall of -0.6% in 1993 and notably a tumble of -2.9% in 2009), which has tended to minimize the importance of what happened in 1975. But at the time it was regarded as a major event. The crisis, this interminable economic crisis that those under the age of 40 in France have the impression of having always lived through, had begun.