This article analyses the protests of the unemployed in northern France in 1934–35. This topic allows investigation of the most intense agitation of the jobless in France in the interwar years. The literature has principally focused on the PCF and the transition between Third
Period and Popular Front policy phases to explain the evolution of movements of the unemployed in France in the 1930s. This article takes a multi-disciplinary approach combining archival research with the concepts of social movement theory to establish the dynamics of unemployed contention
within northern France in these years. The findings of this article are that these dynamics can neither be understood principally through communist instrumentalisation nor as an archetypal social movement. Whilst sharing much with patterns of protest in general, the condition of the unemployed
created an irreducible specificity to the dynamics of unemployed contention in northern France in 1934.