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Monitoring People: Dynamics and Hazards of Record Managementin France, 1935–1944
Heide, Lars.
Technology and Culture, Volume 45, Number 1, January 2004,pp. 80-101 (Article)
Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press
DOI: 10.1353/tech.2004.0020 
For additional information about this article
Access Provided by Bangladesh University of Professionals at 05/18/11 2:26AM GMT
 
80
On 25 January 1945,René Carmille died a prisoner in the Dachau concen-tration camp,having been arrested and deported the previous year for hiswork in the French resistance.Moral conviction had motivated him to rebelagainst the German occupation and the Vichy regime despite his techno-cratic predilection for centralized information management by the state.Carmille had been born in 1886 and trained in engineering at the eliteE´cole Polytechnique in Paris.After his graduation,in 1908,he began a dis-tinguished career in the French army,which in 1924 assigned him to itscentral administration.During the 1930s Carmille took the lead in ration-alizing weapons and munitions production for the French army.Later hisfocus turned to the mechanization ofthe army’s conscription and mobi-lization administration,which was implemented after Germanys conquestofFrance in the summer of1940.The punched-card applications developed by Carmille exemplify gov-ernment and business efforts both inside and outside France during the in-terwar years to exploit the potential ofmodern mass society.For example,punched cards were used in the United States Social Security Board from1937 on to monitor the accumulated wages paid to 21 million people,which provided the basis for computation oftheir old-age pensions.Afterthe fall ofFrance in 1940,a massive punched-card register was establishedto improve the country’s military preparedness.The conditions ofthe ar-mistice had divided the country:three-fifths ofFrance came under direct
Dr.Heide is associate professor at the Centre for Business History,Copenhagen BusinessSchool,Denmark.He thanks Alain Desrosières,Pierre-Eric Mounier-Kuhn,and RobertLigonnière for their help in collecting the material for this article.He also gratefully acknowledges the suggestions and comments from the participants ofa seminar at LaVillette,Paris,in 1999,Jane Horsewell,John M.Staudenmaier,and the
Technology and Culture
referees.©2004 by the Society for the History ofTechnology.All rights reserved.0040-165X/04/4501-0004$8.00
Monitoring People
Dynamics and Hazards of Record Management in France,1935–1944
LARS HEIDE
 
HEIDEK
|
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Record Management in France, 1935–1944
81
German military rule,while Marshal Philippe Pétain governed the remain-ing area,known as Vichy France.Shortly after France’s defeat,René Car-mille suggested establishing a mobilization register,using punched cards,toprepare for the possible mobilization oftwo hundred thousand men inaddition to the hundred thousand permitted under the terms ofthearmistice.This proposal was implemented over the following two years.Butthe scope ofthe register that was set up went beyond its original stated pur-pose:it was to become a national register enabling the state to monitor itscitizens—for better or for worse.The huge punched-card systems established in the 1930s and after,likethe French mobilization register and the social security registers in theUnited States,enabled the state to establish direct contact with the individ-ual.This capability is peculiar to modern mass society.However,historiansoftechnology—indeed,historians in general—have shown little interest inthese bureaucratic systems.
1
Published studies ofvarious office technolo-gies in the period before 1945 have examined the histories ofthe main pro-ducers in the United States,Great Britain,and Germany,though France hasattracted less scholarly attention.
2
In addition,several recent studies haveanalyzed the interplay between machine producers and their various appli-cations as the technologies were developed,but so far most have focused onthe introduction ofoffice machines in the period before the First WorldWar.
3
In contrast,the history ofthe French army’s punched-card applica-tions after 1931,and ofthe establishment ofa national register in Vichy 
1.An exception is the various registers in Nazi Germany.See Lars Heide,“IBM Tech-nology and the Third Reich,in
Genocide: Cases,Comparisons and Contemporary De-bates
,ed.Steven L.B.Jensen (Copenhagen,2003),283–92.2.John Connolly,
 A History ofComputing in Europe
(New York,1968);MartinCampbell-Kelly,
ICL: A Business and Technical History 
(Oxford,1989);Hartmut Petzold,
 Moderne Rechenkünstler: Die Industrialisierung der Rechentechnik in Deutschlan
(Munich,1992);James W.Cortada,
Before the Computer: IBM,NCR,Burroughs,and Remington Rand and the Industry They Created,1865–195
(Princeton,N.J.,1993);Emerson W.Pugh,
Building IBM: Shaping an Industry and Its Technology 
(Cambridge,Mass.,1995);Jacques Vernay,
Chroniques de la Compagnie IBM France
(Paris,1988);Pierre-Eric Mounier-Kuhn,“Bull:A World-Wide Company Born in Europe,
 Annals of the History ofComputing 
11 (1989):279–97.3.JoAnne Yates,
Control through Communication: The Rise ofSystem in American Management 
(Baltimore,1989);Lars Heide,“Shaping a Technology:American PunchedCard Systems 1880–1914,
IEEE Annals ofthe History ofComputing 
19 (1997):28–41.Forstudies with a wider scope with respect to period and application,see Arthur L.Norberg,“High-Technology Calculation in the Early 20th Century:Punched Card Machinery inBusiness and Government,”
History and Technology 
31 (1990):753–79;JoAnne Yates,“Co-Evolution ofInformation-Processing Technology and Use:Interaction Between theLife Insurance and Tabulating Industries,”
Business History Review 
67 (1993):1–51;JoAnne Yates,“Business Use ofInformation and Technology during the Industrial Age,in
 A Nation Transformed by Information
,ed.Alfred D.Chandler and James W.Cortada(New York,2000),107–35.

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