The institutionalisation of collective bargaining between employers and workers, initially introduced in the particular circumstances of the first world war in the French defence industries, became widespread in 1936-7 and standard practice after the second world war. By fashioning legal forms and forums for negotiation, state intervention in industrial and social affairs, visible from the turn of the century, led to the codification of work relations in private companies. This intervention, initiated by socialists in the government, was not isolated from the economic situation or from social pressures. Strike action in 1917-19, in 19356, during the post-Liberation period and in 1947-53 helped trigger procedures designed to resolve such conflicts. What principles and terms of reference served as a basis for negotiation? Did the process of negotiating and drafting collective agreements modify market forces and executive authority? Does it reveal the emergence of ‘industrial democracy’ in private firms? Were the practices of the various parties-businessmen, trade unionists, the workers themselves and state representatives-modified by the drafting and the implementation of the agreements which paved the way for arbitration and worker representation? How far did the political, economic and social situation affect the process of compromise? Did industrial agreements contribute to the social construction and institutionalisation of age and sex divisions within the workforce?