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In monetary and financial terms, the French government was prepared for war. However, it had underestimated the conflict s duration and was faced with extraordinary financing needs. In addition to advances from Banque de France (the French central bank), the government resorted to taxation and above all to loans which covered 75% of its needs; unlike, for example, the U.K. Accordingly, French banks set out to mobilise their networks in order to harness the savings of the French people. Various types of loans were created. Issued as perpetual bonds starting in 1915, the four National Defence loans were the most famous, promoted on posters featuring powerful patriotic allegories. These posters covered the façades of bank branches during the war. The issuance of a cost-free loan for the general public and the extended opening hours of the branches demonstrate the urgent need to mobilise savings. From the very beginning of the war, banks also issued National Defence notes and bonds (short and medium-term repayable loans). Banks encouraged customers to deposit their gold in exchange for bank notes or debt securities, which helped replenish France s gold reserves. Banks also facilitated the extension of credit by foreign banks to the French State by securing the loans. In addition, with the economy suffering as a result of war operations and the mobilisation, banks redirected their assistance towards funding companies related to National Defence, agricultural production and the provision of supplies.

Financing the war

Artiste Sem

For victory, subscribe to the national loan , 4th National Defence Loan, Banque Nationale de Crédit, 1918.

With the Allied victory all but assured, Georges Goursat (1863- 1934), known as Sem, a French caricaturist and poster artist, illustrated this poster with a drawing of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. A procession of ghost armies from past wars marches with the Poilus (WWI soldiers), urged on by François Rude s sculpture La Marseillaise..

BNP Paribas, Historical Archives, poster collection.

Deposit your gold for France