The Bakers of France

Daniel Bertaux presents an oral history of a traditional French industry.

For me, one of the most striking features of European oral history today is the way in which it draws people from different disciplines into genuine exchanges with each other. As a sociologist, my journey into the practical 'fieldwork' of social history has been a long one. Ten years ago I was studying social mobility and the class structure in France – a classic theme in sociology. Tired with the aridity of statistics and surveys, I made up my mind to try – if only as a kind of personal relief – a small piece of practical research myself: to look at how the making of some basic common product was organised, and how this organisation affected the overall lives and everyday experiences of the men and women – workers, owners and managers – involved in it. I thought of cars; but the process there was too complex for the simple personal project I wanted. So I chose bread: the 'real' bread, which is still made, in Paris as everywhere in France, by small artisan bakers.

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