Why was Lyon the most militant city in France

Why was Lyon the most hawkish metropolis in France between 1830 and 1871?

It could be argued that Lyon, which lay at the ‘interstices of a figure of natural regions’ during the mediaeval period, was about ‘doomed’ to go a ageless job. During the early 19th century the metropolis began to demo marks of a more troubled and sustained combativeness than in earlier centuries. From the 14th century the town’s weavers, like laborers throughout a Europe late decimated by a pestilence that has become known as the Black Death, understood that they were non without power. They began to demand, and frequently received, grants that improved their economic places. However, it was non until the 19th century that the craftsmans of the metropolis began to flex a political power, backed by their economic necessity. In this essay we will research how economic power finally led to a political radicalism in Lyon in the center of the 19th century. However, we will besides demo that an addition in the instruction and life style of the craftsmans was besides a really important factor in the degree of combativeness.

It is of import to observe during the treatment that follows, that the term ‘artisan’ is an ‘ambiguous’ one. [ 1 ] It was a term that had been defined as those who earned rewards transporting out a skilled undertaking on a little graduated table. However, by the 19th century this came to include those who worked on a larger graduated table, such as ironworkers and applied scientists. [ 2 ] In this essay the word will normally, but non entirely, refer to silk-workers.

It is clear that the historical background to the place of the silk weavers of Lyon contributed to the hawkish events of the early 19th century. The economic strength held during the mediaeval period was still really apparent by the seventeenth-century. [ 3 ] However, it is besides true that the sum of land owned by the church over the centuries was big and this hampered the enlargement of the metropolis. The metropolis could non turn in a manner that would reflect the turning population and the new industry that came to Lyon, silk weaving. Silk weaving was of import to the metropolis because it had held a monopoly on the sale of imported silk from the 15th century, yet it was besides restricted. [ 4 ] However, the 17th century saw a alteration in the power constructions of the weavers, as the constitution of a board of superintendents gave increased power to the ‘bourgeois coalition’ of merchandisers and master-weavers. [ 5 ] It is this construction that finally led to the jobs of ulterior centuries, as the master-weavers sought to guarantee their best involvements were topmost non those of the merchandisers. [ 6 ] This was a job that lasted good into the 18th century, as the master-weavers sought para with the merchandisers, and it is their changeless desire to be on equal footings with the merchandisers that colours this whole argument. [ 7 ]

By the eighteenth-century this corporation, orGrande Fabrique, was extremely restrictive, with so many of the procedures of the silk-weaving procedure being regulated. [ 8 ] By the terminal of the eighteenth-century this had resulted in there being 308 silk merchandisers but merely 42 merchandiser Masterss. The maestro weavers, who had antecedently held a important sum of power, had lost much of it despite being so big in figure. [ 9 ] Once they had lost much of their power the merchandisers in charge of the corporation began to modulate the silk trade in a manner best suited to them and non the weavers. Although there were regular efforts by the weavers to change the ordinances, they were finally unsuccessful chiefly due to the fact that the big Numberss of workers were really spread out through legion little workshops. [ 10 ] These efforts by the craftsmans at working together to better their economic position were brought to an terminal by the Gallic Revolution, which had such a important consequence on the political relations of France and brought about the prostration of theancien government. [ 11 ] It is clear that the history and development of the silk weavers in Lyon were important factors in the city’s combativeness of the 19th century ; nevertheless, its history entirely can non be the exclusive factor for what happened. Therefore, we need to see other factors.

When sing any signifier of combativeness that involved those that produce goods it must be asked how important economic factors are in the account of what happened. It is clear that the economic system was a factor. However, Iorwerth Prothero, in his book looking at radicalism amongst workmans, suggests that this was non the most of import factor. ‘Craft specialness and labour solidarity can non be treated as complementary.’ [ 12 ] Therefore, what were the economic factors and why were these non sufficient to account for 19th century combativeness?

It is clear the first decennaries of the new century were profitable for the silk manufacturers and Sellerss of Lyon. The metropolis expanded and silk weavers constructed new edifices to house their looms, which in term allowed single weavers to increase the figure of looms they had. It is besides clear that new ‘Jacquard’ looms altered the landscape of the industry, going a position symbol that led to category differentiation amongst master-weavers. [ 13 ] However, it must be remembered that the merchandise of their labor, silk, was a luxury merchandise and hence more sensitive to economic fluctuations than merchandises that are necessary to the day-to-day lives of larger Numberss. Lyon had periods of great prosperity but besides really hard times. A study by the Chamber of Commerce issued in 1832 studies that a ‘cholera epidemic in Paris, revolutions in Latin America, the banking crisis in the United States, tariff argument in England, and the growing of Swiss and German competition’ had led to a serious diminution in gross revenues and net incomes in the first old ages of the 3rd decennary of the century. [ 14 ] Surely this was a job for the merchandisers, nevertheless, they were incensed that the weavers should take this clip to go hard, alternatively of working harder in order to resuscitate the profitableness of their industry. Merchants saw that the lone manner to battle foreign competition was to increase quality and production, yet between 1831-4 there was a major work stoppage by the weavers and a general rebellion of the town. [ 15 ]

It should besides be noted that Lyon was non entirely when it came to economic jobs or workers moving in their political capacity in a manner that could take to economic jobs ; Paris showed a similar form of little, single craftsmans fighting to do a life, who non-the-less were prepared to move in a hawkish manner in order to better their place in social and political spheres. [ 16 ] One important factor in the craftsmans favour was their sheer Numberss. [ 17 ] When these big Numberss of workers eventually began to work as a group, things began to alter radically ; nevertheless, it was non economic necessity but political radicalism that led to this occurrence.

Clearly, political factors played a important portion in the narrative of hawkish Lyon in the 19th century. Prothero insists that although the combativeness amongst craftsmans was a political radicalism, it was non specifically artisan radicalism ; he argues that the craftsmans joined a political motion but were non the cause of it. [ 18 ] So the inquiry that needs to be asked is what were these political factors? Surely the craftsmans were progressively enduring repression by the merchandiser elite who regulated their trade, but was this sufficient to take to the high degree of combativeness experienced by Lyon?

It is clear that a important factor in this politicisation of the craftsmans is their ain feelings of insecurity. We have mentioned above that over the centuries control over their trade was progressively held by an ever-smaller figure of merchandisers. This insecurity was increased by the economic occurrences in other states that led to times of economic adversity unrelated to how difficult or how long they worked. One consequence of this was the craftsmans desire to organize societies to give benefits to the workers, such as taking attention of their households if the weavers died and supplying a respectable entombment. [ 19 ] However, it is clear that common action by these societies was easiest over political affairs as they sought to better what they saw as ‘abuses of authority’ by those in control of their industries. [ 20 ] Other consistent subjects in these extremist thoughts were the disfavor of the privileges of the opinion elites and a desire for more self-autonomy. [ 21 ]

A farther factor in the account of this hawkish period lies in the increased value laid on instruction. With the addition in cognition and the outlook of passing more clip off from work, a desire to fall in in cultural life increased, which in bend emphasised the disparity of chance between the craftsmans and the privileged in society. [ 22 ] Prothero records that ‘plebeian radicalism used the Centres and signifiers of popular culture’ , such as ‘singing, debating and treatment clubs’ frequently found in public houses, enabled the spread of their thoughts to progressively big Numberss of people. These webs besides facilitated a greater easiness to agreements being made to protest.

However, these factors may hold contributed to the clear alteration in the perceptual experiences and apprehensions of the artisan category of Europe but it was economic factors and national events that led to the specific jobs in Lyon in the 19th century. The nature of the development of the relationships between the merchandisers and the weavers of Lyon during the in-between ages ; the economic exposure of a trade in luxury goods and the proficient betterments that led to a move of the workplace from the place to big factory-like edifices were important factors in the combativeness of Lyon between 1830 and 1871.

Prothero draws together the work of legion historiographers of ‘industrial relation’ across Europe and develops an statement that insists that it was the development of a broad society, with its accent on instruction and cultural coherence that led to the development of a extremist category of craftsmans ; and that this development was a major factor in the perturbations. He argues that this progressively good educated category led to a alteration in public perceptual experiences of working people in public life and political relations. Such a alteration, which necessitates a challenge to the bing opinion categories necessarily leads to clash and resistance. He suggests that this is what led to the combativeness of 19th century Lyon and it is hard to differ with this stance.

In decision, it is clear that the specific hawkish events in Lyon during this period were normally precipitated by economic events ; nevertheless, it is every bit clear that an progressively educated population, inspired by national events, peculiarly those in Paris, were no longer content to let the merchandisers to win in continually taking control of the trade off from the craftsmans. It is for this ground that Lyon was the most hawkish metropolis in France in the 19th century.


Bezucha, R.J. ,The Lyon Uprising of 1834: societal and political struggle in the early July monarchy, Harvard University Press: Cambridge, Mass. , 1974

Prothero, I. ,Extremist Artisans in England and France, 1830-1870, CUP: Cambridge, 1997

Traugott, M. ,Armies of the Poor: Determinants of Working-Class Participation in the Parisien Insurrection of June 1848, Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1985

Stewart-McDougall, M.L. ,The Artisan Republic: Revolution, Reaction and Resistance in Lyon 1848-1851,Sutton: Gloucester, 1984