Gwynne Lewis’ history opens with a full analysis of all the components of traditional France, including political and religious structures, the seigneurial system, the bourgeoisie and the poor. Part two examines the meaning and challenge of the Enlightenment, with particular reference to women and the mass of the poor. Part three concentrates upon the relationship between the shift to laissez-faire economics, popular revolts and government repression, providing the essential background to the Revolutionary decade of the 1790s. The Revolution witnessed the rise of a politicised ‘Popular Movement’ that achieved, briefly, a measure of popular democracy. War and counter-revolution blocked the move towards real democracy, strengthened the authority of the centralised state, and enhanced the credibility of bourgeois political and economic power.
One of the main contentions of this work is that the failure of both monarchical and Revolutionary regimes to deal with the massive social problem of poverty played a far larger part in explaining the collapse of the Bourbons in 1789, and the failure of democracy during the 1790s, than most historians have allowed. Likewise, the importance of religion in directing the momentous events of this period has also been under-estimated.
Table of Contents
General editor's preface -- Acknowledgements -- Maps -- Introduction PART ONE: 'LA FRANCE PROFONDE' -- 1. Louis XIV and the Regent: war and peace -- Bourbon absolutism -- Checks and balances -- Louis XIV - 'absolutism reinterpreted' -- The Regency: a failed revolution? -- The liberal phase, 1715-18 -- The authoritarian phase, 1718-23 -- 2. The Catholic Church and French society -- Church and state: 'the jealous sisters' -- The organisation of the Catholic Church -- The Catholic Church: 'in sickness and in health' -- Religion, women and 'the public sphere' -- 3. The nobility and the seigneurial system -- French agriculture: custom and modernisation -- A 'feudal' or a 'seigneurial' ruling class? -- The eighteenth-century noble -- Categories of nobles -- Landownership: 'This bizarre system' -- The exploitation of a seigneury -- The coercive power of the seigneury -- 'Apprentice seigneurs': fermiers and laboureurs -- 4. The ancien regime bourgeoisie -- The rise of the bourgeoisie' -- Typology of the bourgeoisie -- The lawyer, the ironmaster, their wives and children': case studies -- 5. A 'fourth estate' of poverty -- Dependency and poverty in the countryside -- Protoindustrial 'peasant-artisans', factory workers and miners -- Urban workers: journeymen, street vendors and migrants -- Servants, beggars and slaves -- Poverty, the pulpit and popular protest -- PART TWO: 'WINDS OF CHANGE' -- 6. 'Enlightenments' and the people -- Love, sex and marriage -- Medicine and health -- Literacy and education -- Philosophes and the people -- 7. 'Enlightenments' and the state -- Choiseul and the lessons of defeat -- Economic growth: from state regulation towards free trade -- Maupeou's 'enlightened absolutism' -- Repression and social rebellion -- PART THREE: REFORM AND REACTION -- 8. 'New ideological wine into old constitutional bottles': reform and reaction, 1774-91 -- Social reform: from Turgot to Necker, 1774-81 'Liaisons dangereuses': political and cultural crossroads during the 1780s -- The fiscal and financial crisis of the ancien regime -- The bourgeois-popular revolution of 1789-91: 'mixed messages' -- 9. War and dictatorship -- The rise and fall of the Jacobin-sansculotte alliance, 1792-4 Le peuple, counter-revolution and the bourgeois state The exclusion of the people from power -- Conclusion -- Glossary -- Notes -- Index.
Gwynne Lewis is Emeritus Professor at The University of Warwick. She has also taught in Canada and in Tanzania.
Her works include The Second Vendee (1978); The Advent of Modern Capitalism in France 1770-1840 (1993) and The French Revolution: Rethinking the Debate (Routledge, 1993).