Trente Glorieuses  

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"Over this post-war thirty-year period, dubbed the Trente Glorieuses, Europe's economy grew rapidly like economies of other developed countries within the framework of the Marshall Plan. These decades of economic prosperity combined high productivity with high average wages and high consumption, and were also characterized by a highly developed system of social benefits." --Sholem Stein

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Les Trente Glorieuses ("The Glorious Thirty") refers to the thirty years from 1945 to 1975 following the end of the Second World War in France. The name was first used by the French demographer Jean Fourastié. Fourastié coined the term in 1979 with the publication of his book Les Trente Glorieuses, ou la révolution invisible de 1946 à 1975 ("The Glorious Thirty, or the Invisible Revolution from 1946 to 1975"). The term is derived from Les Trois Glorieuses ("The Glorious Three"), the three days of revolution on 27–29 July 1830 in France.

As early as 1944, Charles de Gaulle introduced a dirigiste economic policy, which included substantial state-directed control over a capitalist economy which was followed by 30 years of unprecedented growth, known as the Trente Glorieuses.

Over this thirty-year period, France's economy grew rapidly like economies of other developed countries within the framework of the Marshall Plan such as West Germany, Italy and Japan. These decades of economic prosperity combined high productivity with high average wages and high consumption, and were also characterised by a highly developed system of social benefits. According to various studies, the real purchasing power of the average French worker's salary went up by 170% between 1950 and 1975, while over-all private consumption increased by 174% in the period 1950-74. The French standard of living, which had been damaged by both World Wars, became one of the world's highest. The population also became far more urbanized; many rural départements experienced a population decline while the larger metropolitan areas grew considerably, especially that of Paris. Ownership of various household goods and amenities increased considerably, while the wages of the French working class rose significantly as the economy became more prosperous. As noted by the historians Jean Blondel and Donald Geoffrey Charlton in 1974,

If it is still the case that France lags in the number of its telephones, working-class housing has improved beyond recognition and the various 'gadgets' of the consumer society – from television to motor cars – are now purchased by the working class on an even more avid basis than in other Western European countries.

Since the 1973 oil crisis, France's economy, while still faring well under François Mitterrand and Jacques Chirac, slowed down its explosive growth. Thus, the mid-1970s marked the end of the period.

In his book Capital in the Twenty-First Century, French economist Thomas Piketty describes the Trente Glorieuses as an exceptional "catch up" period following the world wars. He cites statistics showing that normal growth in wealthy countries is about 1.5-2%, whereas in Europe growth dropped to 0.5% between 1913 and 1950, and then "caught up" with a growth rate of 4% between 1950 and 1970, until settling back to 1.5–2% from 1970 onward.

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