Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to present personal testimony of one of the early researchers on small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurship in France. Design/methodology/approach: The story of a half-century evolution is divided into five decades, of SME and entrepreneurship development in France. The development of the French academic system of research on SME and entrepreneurship is described through some teams. Findings: During the two early decades (1955-1975), both the social legitimacy and economic competitiveness sharply and deeply lowered, while that after the world crisis (1975) until nowadays (2005), the social, political, and economic interest for SME and entrepreneurship has continuously increased. Research limitations/implications: The academic research pioneered SME during the 1960s, and entrepreneurship during the 1980s. The historical development of the national network of teams and associations is described, increasingly including the international context. Practical implications: Beyond the personal testimony, this contribution enlightens the problems entailed by the lack of legitimacy of the spirit of enterprise anchored in French society, and, more generally, in all the societies averse to individual risk taking. Originality/value: The testimony is based on the personal experience of one scholar who early promoted in the French academic system Master and Doctoral courses on SME and entrepreneurship. It outlines some original concepts relative to small firms. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
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