Copper metallurgy and the aeronautics industry honoured at the 2019 AFHé – BNP Paribas Economic History Awards

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AFHé BNP Paribas Congress - Clair Juilliet, 2019

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The 5th edition of the Economic History Prizes, organised by BNP Paribas and the French Association of Economic History (AFHé), distinguished Lise Saussus and Clair Juilliet, for their respective theses on copper metallurgy in the medieval towns of Flanders and social relations in the aeronautical sector from 1943 to 1978. Here is a look at the announcement of the prizes by Jean Lemierre, Chairman of BNP Paribas, as well as the speeches by the winners and the Chairman of AFHé.

BNP Paribas Economic History Prize 2019: discover the winners and their theses

2 questions to Clair Juilliet, one of the 2 winners of the Economic History Prize, for his thesis entitled Bâtir les relations professionnelles sous l’égide de l’État. Socio-economic conflicts and consensuses in a French aeronautical construction company (1943-1978).

What is the origin of your interest in the construction of social relations in the aircraft construction sector?

After a master’s thesis on the economic and social consequences of the workers’ strikes of May-June 1968 in the industry of Haute-Garonne, I wanted to continue my training by means of a doctoral thesis in history.

In 2011, during a study day devoted to the trade union history of Haute-Garonne, held in the presence of local trade union representatives, a debate emerged on the role played by some and others in the major socio-economic transformations that took place within the flagship company of the Toulouse aeronautics sector in the early 1970s – in particular the decisive signing of a company agreement.

The members of the CGT-FO, managers of the Works Council (CE) of the company that succeeded it – Airbus – gave me access to the minutes of the plenary sessions of this staff representative institution, which is a prime source for conducting an economic and social history of the company. Under the direction of Professor Jean-Marc Olivier, I thus undertook to define a research topic that could be based on this rich documentation.

Archives historiques BNP Paribas

AFHé BNP Paribas Congress – Clair Juilliet, 2019

The aeronautical industry has not been the subject of much academic historical research, even though it has been an essential sector for local and national economic dynamism since the end of the 20th century. Based on the work carried out before me by several historians (Claude Carlier, Emmanuel Chadeau, Herrick Chapman), I decided to examine not only the construction of social relations in this state-owned aeronautical factory, but also the trajectories of the site’s economic evolution and the influence that the former had on the latter – and vice versa – in the industrial development.

The study thus set out to analyse the major economic and social developments in the aeronautical sector over a period of thirty years (1943-1978). It turns out that these changes are significant: the role of the employer-state and socio-economic strategies, the growing internationalisation of production processes and the networking of aeronautical companies, the transformation of work and the workforce, the signing of a company agreement and changes in trade unionism, etc.

What does this award mean to a young researcher?

The awarding of this prize is a recognition of the work I have done from 2012 to 2018. I hope that it will contribute to my professional integration and allow me to find funding to continue my research on the political, economic and social dimensions of French, European and global aviation. It demonstrates the relevance of analysing the construction of industrial relations at the different levels where they are played out (factories, companies, sectors, interprofessional; local, national, international, etc.), by interweaving the economic and the social. I would like to thank the AFHé and BNP-Paribas for the legitimacy and visibility they have given to my research by awarding me this prize.

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