Rethinking the History of the French Welfare State | Wilson Center

Rethinking the History of the French Welfare State

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Webcast Recap

This seminar will delineate the French welfare state in long-term historical perspective and consider the multiple strands of tradition, institutions, and policies that contributed to its founding and development. It will link practices to successive political regimes and make comparisons between French and British welfare systems. What are the possible future directions of French welfare policy in view of past precedents and current conditions?

Katherine A. Lynch is a social historian working in the fields of family history, historical population studies, and the history of charity and welfare institutions in the European past. She has published numerous books and articles, including Family, Class and Ideology in Early Industrial France: Social Policy and the Working-Class Family, 1825-1848 and Sources and Methods of Historical Demography. Her latest book, Individuals, Families and Communities in Europe, 1200-1800: The Urban Foundations of Western Society, provides a new interpretation of European family and society by placing the family at the center of the life of "civil society." Using evidence from European towns and cities, Lynch explores how women and men created voluntary associations outside the family - communities, broadly defined - to complement or even substitute for solidarities based on kinship.

A professor of history at Carnegie Mellon University, Lynch has also served as editor of Social Science History and recently been a visiting professor at the University of Paris – IV (Sorbonne) and a directeur d'études at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales. Her current research focuses on the development of French poor relief institutions in the first half of the nineteenth century, particularly in comparison to the English Poor Law system of the same period.


  • Katherine A. Lynch

    Professor of History, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Christian F. Ostermann

    Director, History and Public Policy Program; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
    Woodrow Wilson Center