The picture of France as a country of small firms is supported by global statistics, though the statistics conceal almost as much as they reveal. This chapter discusses the family firm theory of David Landes. He has argued that the average French entrepreneur was a small businessman acting for himself or at most on behalf of a handful of partners, and that this was not only true in 1875 but, despite some exceptions, was still so at the end of the century. The industry which fits David Landes's description most easily is that of textiles, which, in the mid 19th century, was of course France's largest industry and at the end of this period was the fourth largest in the world, after Britain, U.S.A., and India. This chapter also reveals that family control of small units was the rule, but there was great variety among them. It highlights that these textile dynasties formed only a small proportion of the employers in this industry. The bulk, in the middle of the 19th century, was merchant-manufacturers still using artisan labour and just beginning to turn to mechanized weaving in factories.
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