Le Chemin de fer de l'Est: The Railroad Company of the East and its effects on industrialization (1845--1937)

Delbert Patrick Thomas Carey, Marquette University


Le Chemin de fer de L'Est , or the railroad Company of the East, was one of only six companies sanctioned by the Second Empire. By 1869, it had become one of the most profitable lines in Europe. The Franco-Prussian War nearly destroyed the Company as its area of operations in eastern France became the primary theater of the war. Following the Treaty of Versailles in 1871, and the subsequent Treaty of Frankfurt, the Company ceded all of its foreign possessions and relinquished all of its property in Alsace-Lorraine to the new German Empire. The Company lost nearly forty percent of its capital and the major sources of its carrying trade. Despite these setbacks, the Company adopted an aggressive rebuilding plan that exploited native French products and developed French industry, which allowed the Company to survive. From September 1992 through June 1993 I lived in Paris, France, where I completed an intensive study of the Company. I conducted the vast majority of my research at the Archives Nationales, the Bibliothèque Nationale, and the Institut Nationale des Statistiques et Études Économiques. The complete records of the Company are stored at the Archives Nationales while the other archives supplied valuable secondary sources and governmental studies. The resulting dissertation is a comprehensive and detailed study of both the Company of the East and the French system as a whole. Not only does the dissertation explore the growth and operation of the Company, but also it explores the structure of the Company and the function of its various departments. By examining how the Company functioned, this study demonstrates not only the selection of solutions but the active pursuit of company goals, and how these decisions affected not only the workers of the Company, but the population and prosperity of eastern France as well. After discussing Company structure, the dissertation explores the role of the railroad in modernizing France, industrializing eastern France, and mobilizing both the nations people and its resources. Finally, the dissertation compares the British paradigm of industrialization to the French model, which has recently emerged as a viable challenge to the generally accepted British model. This study will provide both French historians and industrial historians a long overdue account of the role of one particular transportation company.

Recommended Citation

Carey, Delbert Patrick Thomas, "Le Chemin de fer de l'Est: The Railroad Company of the East and its effects on industrialization (1845--1937)" (2000). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9977725.