Friday, 31 March 2023 to Sunday, 2 April 2023

French economic policy in interwar Central and Eastern Europe. A reconsideration of Impérialisme du pauvre in Poland

Fri31  Mar04:30pm(15 mins)
James Watt South Room 355


Jerzy Łazor1
1 Warsaw School of Economics, Poland


The goal of the presented paper is to reassess the role played by French investment in interwar Poland, particularly by focusing on existing imperialist interpretations of the phenomenon. In the interwar period, France used its geopolitical position in Central and Eastern Europe to get economic concessions, force asymmetric treaties, and help French companies obtain privileged treatment, despite a weak capital market in Paris and limited competitiveness of French firms. Most notably, Georges-Henri Soutou called this policy "imperialism of the poor" (impérialisme du pauvre), although similar imperialist interpretations emerged in the region’s historiography as well. In the presentation, based on an analysis of key negotiations, I will argue that French investment cannot easily be reduced to imperialist expansion, in which authorities from Paris and the companies they supported used the weaker positions of their eastern counterparts. Interactions between Poland and France were rather a complex game played by asymmetric partners, pursuing different, not necessarily opposed, and not always obvious goals. In particular, Poland was often an active participant, rather than merely an object of expansion, which managed to achieve some surprising successes.