IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > B. Early Modern Europe, 1479–1815 > 5. National Patterns, 1648–1815 > c. France
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1631–48)
c. France
Monarchs: Louis XIV (1643–1715), Louis XV (1715–74), Louis XVI (1774–92).  1
Demography: Between 1700 and 1789, French population increased from approximately 19 million to 25 million. Population growth was more rapid in the latter half of the 18th century than in the first half but lagged behind British population growth.  2
Economics: Colbert subscribed to mercantilism, arguing that France could improve its economic position only at the cost of another country. Colbert pursued protectionist policies and introduced considerable regulation of urban trades. The sale of offices and the way in which the French national debt was financed discouraged venturesome investment by the rentier class of established capitalists. Despite such constraints, reassessments of French industrial development demonstrate the French economic growth per capita matched that of Britain after 1750.  3
Women: Women were very influential in shaping ideas at court and among the philosophes. The Enlightenment thinkers in France often gathered in salons run by wealthy women (e.g., Mme. Geoffrin, Mlle. de Lespinasse, Mme. de Tencin, Mme. du Deffand), which gave upper-class women increasing access to philosophical and political ideas. The court society created by Louis XIV at Versailles also provided women with the opportunity to participate in political discussions. Individual women gained influence over Louis XV.  4
LOUIS XIV ascended the throne at age five. His mother, Anne of Austria (daughter of Philip III of Spain), acted as guardian. The government, even after Louis reached his majority, was conducted by Cardinal Mazarin.  5
Treaty of Westphalia gave Metz, Toul, Verdun, Dreisach, and Pinerolo to France (See 1648, Oct. 24).  6
Unrest in provinces, especially regarding tax increases. Mazarin responded by lowering taxes.  7
THE FRONDE, revolt against the regency named after the catapult children used to hurl clods at passing coaches. This was the last attempt of the nobility to oppose the court by armed resistance. It had two phases: a parlementary revolt and a revolt of the princes.  8
Jan. 15
A lit de justice—a sitting of representatives to enforce an edict—created new offices and raised taxes. Contrary to French traditions, the Parlement examined the edict before passing it under pressure from Anne.  9
April 7
Parlement presented oral remonstrances to the edict and called upon the queen to relieve the people of heavy taxes.  10
April 29
Droit annuel granted provided that three of the four courts (the Parlement excepted) refused wages for four years. These courts appealed to the Parlement for assistance. Parlement passed an act of union and called all four courts to an assembly (May 13) despite Anne's objections. Anne arrested deputies and judges responsible for continued deputations between courts.  11
June 8
Queen's attorneys forbade the meeting of the assembly but capitulated when Parlement refused to disband. Anne asked that the meeting be immediate and quick.  12
July 4
Parlement assumed legislative powers in the struggle, contravening tradition, and amended a government declaration that future taxes would be cleared by Parlement before enacting. Parlement declared all taxes not cleared null and all back taxes uncollectable.  13
Oct. 24
Parlement registered a declaration of government which was a product of compromise at a convention. Wages were restored but some offices removed and tax farming regulated. However, the government began to negotiate further amendments to this declaration.  14
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.