Elite de Façade et Mirages de l’Independance

Les Petits Entrepreneurs Etrangers en France dans l’Entre-Deux-Guerres

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques

In the literature, immigrant entrepreneurs are described as the élite of the best “integrated” immigrants. Histories of migrant communities all insist on the role of the entrepreneurs as the center of the community and the symbol of social success. In this paper, I will discuss the diverse social meaning attached to being an entrepreneur for an immigrant in Paris during the interwar period. In order to describe the social position of immigrant entrepreneurs, I worked on professional careers, based on the study of more than two hundred applications for French nationality from foreign entrepreneurs during the first half of the twentieth century. It's hard to conclude that there is a one-way social mobility of entrepreneurs, either ascendant or descendent. While some went from the working class to owning a shop, eventually able to spend and save money, others became entrepreneurs as a necessity rather than choice.