Un "îlot brassicole”. Brasseurs et brasseries à Lyon et dans le Rhône (fin XVIIIe siècle – 1914)

Romain Thinon 1, 2
Abstract : In France, the nineteenth century is the age of beer: in a hundred years, annual production and consumption grow from less than three to more than fifteen million hectolitres. Thanks to its advantageous commercial position and the quality of its waters, Lyon occupies a unique place in this developing mass-market. Calling presumed alimentary boundaries into question, the city distinguishes itself as soon as the end of the Ancien Régime through a wide use of the hoppy beverage and the making of a product with specific organoleptic qualities being exported to the southeast quarter of the country. Skilfully maintained, this original situation turns Lyon into one of the main French beer production centres of the first half of the century. Things change with the advent of the Second Empire. New drinking trends and habits, birth of a European then worldwide consumption market and substantial scientific and technical improvements combine themselves to change the activity into a definite way. Thus, the Rhône brewing sector, leaded by Lyon’s breweries and initially made of numerous and small short-lived handcraft production units selling locally only, becomes in a few decades an industry operating towards foreign markets and formed by a handful of big factories gathering workforce, capitals and market share. Regulatory framework itself (professional legislation or insalubrity control) and fiscal politics on national and municipal scales contribute also to the transition. Since they have to adapt their manufacturing and formation processes, as well as supplying and selling strategies, the redefinition of urban and commercial logics has a direct impact on brewers’ practices: in a wider sense, it is the organization of the beer sector which progressively reveals itself. However, it would be untrue to see these businessmen as powerless victims of an uncontrolled process. More than spectators, they are actors of a protean revolution. The prosopographical study of 337 careers considered in their individual and collective dimensions prove the plurality of fortunes: while the model of the small business allows audacious craftsmen whatever their professional and geographical origins (many of them come from Alsace and Germany) to succeed by highlighting their work and satisfying their ambitions, the industrial model is more selective. In the medium term, only a few businessmen will survive, their smaller colleagues and competitors suffering the joint effects of economic conjuncture, market rationalization and family tragedies. At the edge of World War One, six breweries are still in operation: having proven its early adaptation ability by modifying its structure in order to assimilate the productivist modernization, the Rhône brewing sector can be considered as an exception among the pre-industrial activities, a fortiori among those from the food-processing sector.
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Romain Thinon. Un "îlot brassicole”. Brasseurs et brasseries à Lyon et dans le Rhône (fin XVIIIe siècle – 1914). Histoire. Université de Lyon, 2016. Français. ⟨tel-01433638⟩

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