Memory, influence and leadership: resilience and resistance of workers in Le Havre 1936 - 1944

Shtasel, Rebecca (2019) Memory, influence and leadership: resilience and resistance of workers in Le Havre 1936 - 1944. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Download (2MB)


Existing work on French factory workers during the German occupation has so far revealed striking variations between how workers behaved,depending on their town or region and even on their workplace. The same themes appear - hardship, wages, trade unions, protest - and yet they are configured completely differently depending on geography, local history and local populations. This thesis looks at the specific example of Le Havre where, in contrast to most other areas, the workers voiced their discontent from the very start of the Occupation. However, their discontent was not transformed into organised resistance in 1943 and 1944 to the same extent as elsewhere in France. This thesis therefore identifies three themes - memory, influence and leadership – in order to explain why the Le Havre workers behaved as they did. In particular, it is the focus on leadership – or lack of it – which provides its significant contribution to the understanding of French labour history during this period. Using archival sources, it traces the history of port and factory workers in Le Havre from the factory occupations that accompanied the Popular Front election victory in 1936, through to the end of the German occupation. The 1936 strikes gave workers a taste of victory and a memory of what they could achieve, which they took with them into the Occupation. These strikes ensured that trade unionism was the greatest influence on Le Havre’s workers, providing workers with a resilience which they exhibited after the Germans had arrived. The town’s trade union leaders had been present for many years, gaining the workers’ trust and respect through many successful disputes. However, these leaders disappeared during the Occupation, in some cases virtually, because they co-operated with the authorities, in others, literally because they were deported. Without leadership, the workers were unable to turn their discontent into real and sustained action.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Arts and Humanities > History
Subjects: D History > DC History of France > DC035 History > DC060 By period > DC110 Modern, 1515- > DC361 20th century
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labour > HD4801 Labour. Work. Working class > HD8031 Labour in politics. Political activity of the working class
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 03 May 2019 13:49
Last Modified: 16 Mar 2022 15:48

View download statistics for this item

📧 Request an update