Article | European Review of Economic History | December 1998

Entrepreneurs and Business Performance in Nineteenth Century France

by Tom Nicholas, Elisa Boccaletti and James Foreman-Peck

Abstract

A popular explanation for the supposed "delayed industrialisation" of the nineteenth century French economy has been the inappropriate attitudes and actions of the managerial classes and family firms. To address these claims we model the supply and demand for entrepreneurship and also management success. We analyse a data set of 244 nineteenth century French businessmen, showing that on the demand side textiles offered greater, and iron and steel less, than average opportunities. On the supply side, secondary and university education were negatively associated with starting a successful firm, as was a father already in business. Surprisingly, Protestantism made no difference to the chances of setting up a firm. In the business performance model, the longer the period the businessman was active, the greater the accumulation—not consistent with life-cycle models of saving. Second, those who started their own business, compared with entering an existing firm, left less wealth at death than they could have expected to acquire over a normal lifetime, other things being equal. Unlike formal education, training—mainly apprenticeship—was associated with greater wealth at death. The pace of wealth accumulation suggests a dynamic sector during the Second Empire, at least where larger businesses were concerned.

Keywords: Entrepreneurship; Performance; Economy; Management; Success; Opportunities; Management Analysis, Tools, and Techniques; Saving; Higher Education; Training; Demand and Consumers; France;

Citation:

Nicholas, Tom, Elisa Boccaletti, and James Foreman-Peck. "Entrepreneurs and Business Performance in Nineteenth Century France." European Review of Economic History (December 1998).