The Lost Foundations of the Welfare State: The French Law of 9 April 1898 Tested by the Great War

Soldiers' Health, Between War and Peace: 1830-1930
By Vincent Viet

The French Law of 9 April 1898 is often presented as the foundational legislation on work-related accidents, which has defied time with only a few modifications for the sake of convenience. In reality, this text influenced other legislation and generated judicial decisions that ensured its longevity. The Great War gives us one illustration, as this law became a key element of the ‘mobilised worker’ status, served as a legal resource for calculating military pensions and benefits, and merged with veteran military assistance to provide compensation for the war disabled who had suffered work accidents. This is why it is interesting to take a new look at the relationship between reparation for civilians who suffered work-related accidents, and reparation for military personnel of war-related disabilities or diseases. This approach reveals why the welfare state did not actually grow out of the Law of 9 April 1898, nor – strangely enough – out of the rubble of the war.

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