1974 and the closing of French borders

Critical analysis of a decision erected as a turning point
By Sylvain Laurens

In July 1974, the French government announced the temporary suspension of immigration. Never questioned over the following thirty years, that measure, publicized as a turning point, typifies the manner in which political scientists usually recount public policies. This article examines the interactions triggered by this decision, and reconsiders the consensus on the existence of a real “turning point” in French immigration policies through three different questions. Was the “economic crisis” the critical factor in a decision rooted in the bureaucratic machinery? What should be the focus and how far in the past should a researcher go to explain a decision?


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