Stages of Diversification: France, 1836-1938
A large literature has documented an association between economic growth and export diversification. We study this question in France between 1836 and 1938. The period witnessed the onset of modern economic growth and sharp changes in the level of international competition. We use a new long term database on French foreign trade at a high level of disaggregation. At the dawn of the first Globalization, France appears to have specialized along Ricardian lines, exporting a handful of textile products in large quantities. There is a decrease in specialization from 1860 to World War I along the lines of modern studies. Changes in trade costs along with economic growth help explain the evolution of France’s comparative advantage. The decline of export concentration is associated with a chronic deficit in the balance of trade during the Belle Époque and the major part of the interwar period particularly after 1927.
The authors thank Karine Onfroy for helpful assistance concerning dataset building. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.