The reality behind the myth of the 200 families is complicated. It deserves to be looked at in greater detail. It would be useful also to study it in the light of another general accusation made about French industrialists, which in many ways contradicts it. This is the family-firm theory of David Landes. He has argued that the average French entrepreneur was a small businessman acting for himself or at most on behalf of a handful of partners, and that this was not only true in 1875 but, despite some exceptions, was still so at the end of the century. Landes has been mainly concerned with explaining the weakness of the French economy, the slow rate of its industrial growth in the nineteenth century, and its loss of the hegemony it held under Napoleon I. The textile industrialists seemed a threat to democracy largely because their family organisation let very few facts about their firms escape to the public. There were striking differences between textile manufacturers and ironmasters, and, in addition, neither were homogeneous groups. Other branches of industry would reveal still further variety.
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