The 2013 AFHE BNP Paribas Economic History Award ceremony took place on 4 October in Roubaix as a part of the annual conference of the French economic history association (AFHE). The ceremony was hosted by the ANMT – the national employment archives.

The award, presented every two years, aims to increase visibility of the subject of economic history. It honours two top PhD students who have successfully completed their thesis on a related topic, in the area of history or humanities and social sciences.

The two winners of the 2013 award were Stéphane Lembré and Aurélie Carrara, who received their diplomas from Nicolas Draux, BNP Paribas' Regional Head for the North of France*, representing Baudouin Prot, President of the Jury for this award.

This week, meet the winner Stéphane Lembré, author of a thesis on training in the North of France from 1860 to the 1930s.

What does winning this award mean to a young researcher like you? Will it have an impact on your development in the university world or on your career path?

The AFHE BNP Paribas award is a fine recognition of several years' research culminating in the completion of a PhD thesis. It increases the visibility of a particular research topic, namely, professional training. Moreover, this award demonstrates the importance of an approach which involves many different players in this area (businesses, chambers of commerce, trade unions, organisations, government bodies, local authorities).

From a personal point of view, the award gives additional credibility to a young researcher like me and adds value to research in the field of humanities and social sciences, which is essential! The award gives me confidence to pursue my research and enthusiasm to build new projects!

Why did you select the topic of professional training in the Northern region of France from 1860 to the 1930s?

Research topics relating to history or any other subject always seem to be very specialised and sometimes very remote from our daily preoccupations! And yet they correspond to present day issues. Like the education system, professional training often appears in the news in France, usually to lament that France is falling behind or that there are recruiting challenges in the sectors of the economy which hire the most. Likewise, political and economic leaders who have to tackle economic issues recognise that the solution is to train staff in financial difficulty. And yet there is a historical correlation between training and economic growth.

For decades, the North of France has had to deal with the urgent situation of reconverting its declining industries (e.g. mining and textiles). I looked at how training and technical education contributed to this reconversion and how they favoured substantial economic growth in this region during the 19th century. To address these questions and understand our economic and social environment, I dug deep into archives and researched into the training on offer during the period under review (sometimes there was little material available) which form the basis of today's educational and training programmes. For many years, a larger number of people take short vocational courses after the baccalauréat in the North of France than in the rest of the country, resulting in a lack of young people going on to further education. Once again, knowing the origins of this phenomenon helps us to understand the present situation.

BNP Paribas' partnership with the AFHE, extended for the second time this year, fits with the Group's commitment to giving people a greater understanding of the French economy. During his speech, Nicolas Draux reminded his audience of the bank's commitment to favouring economic history knowledge. The venue for the award ceremony was a symbolic place for BNP Paribas because the ANMT houses a part of the Group's banking ancestors' archives. Mr Draux also highlighted the historical role of BNP Paribas in the economic and industrial development of the Northern region of France.

The AFHE award is the result of close collaboration between the AFHE and BNP Paribas. The next edition will be held in 2015.

Next week, meet Aurélie Carrara, the co-winner of the award and author of a thesis on International trade tax in the ancient world.

Front row, left to right: Roger Nougaret, Natacha Coquery (President of the AFHE), Virginie Mathé & Laurent Herment, the 2011 winners
Second row: Nicolas Draux, Nicolas Marty (Secretary-General of the AFHE) and Stéphane Lembré

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