France’s 1950s economic boom led to substantial changes in French lifestyles and some of society’s fundamental structures. Near the turn of the century, the French people had come to enjoy greater comfort and security than their ancestors; they had come to rely on automobiles, modern appliances, and vacation homes that were once considered luxuries. French people began buying installments from supermarkets and spending less money on food and drink instead of paying attention to health and leisure activities. They were better protected from illness, unemployment, and a neglected old age by the expanded social security system after World War II. Modern technology and a new managerial spirit ushered France into the post-industrial era in the industrial regions. Unskilled workers declined in favor of technically trained specialists, and middle-management positions increased sharply.
The Marshall Plan organized intensive tours of American industry. Four hundred and seventy-one French businessmen and experts visited factories, farms, stores, and offices in the U.S. Many were amazed at how easy it was to buy a new automobile for a low price after nine months of work versus 30 months in France. A few companies in France resisted Americanization, but the most profitable ones, especially in chemicals, oil, electronics, and instrumentation, took advantage of the opportunity to attract American investments and expand their markets.
After the Second World War, Paris quickly regained its status as one of the world’s great centers of intellectual creativity. There was a cluster of brilliant thinkers and writers competing for influence, attracting followers abroad and in France. Jean-Paul Sartre led the first postwar wave, which made existentialism the leading ideology at the time.
Below are some stunning photos that will take you back to the 1950s in France.