This paper provides a comparative analysis of working class consumer credit in Britain and France from the early twentieth century through to the 1980s. It indicates a number of similarities between the two nations in the earlier part of the period: in particular, in the operation of doorstep credit systems. For the British case study, we explore consumer finance offered by credit drapers (sometimes known as tallymen) whilst in France the paper explores a similar system that functioned in the coalmining communities around the city of Lens. Both methods operated on highly socialised relationships that established the trust on which credit was offered and long-term creditor/borrower relationships established. In the second part of the paper, we analyse the different trajectories taken in post-war France and Britain in this area of working class credit. In France this form of socialized credit gradually dwindled due to factors such as ‘Bancarisation’, which saw the major banks emerge as modern bureaucratized providers of credit for workers and their families. In contrast, in Britain the tallymen (and other related forms of doorstep credit providers) were offered a new lease of life in the 1960s and 1970s. This was a period during which British credit providers utilised multiple methods to evade the hire purchase controls put in place by post-war governments. Thus, whilst the British experience was one of fragmented consumer loan types (including the continuation of doorstep credit), the French experience (like elsewhere in Europe) was one of greater consolidation. The paper concludes by reflecting on the role of these developments in the creation of differential experiences of credit inclusion/exclusion in the two nations and the impact of this on financial inequality.
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