The Crisis of the Absolute Monarchy*
This chapter examines the historiographical debates inspired by the French Revolution, discussing how the impact of the Revisionist attack on the social (or Marxist) interpretation led to a richer, but ultimately more confused picture as historians pursued a wide variety of political, cultural, and intellectual approaches to the origins of 1789. It argues that current historiography has reached something of an impasse and that in order to understand the breakdown of the absolute monarch it is necessary to reconsider the central political preoccupations of the absolute monarchy, that is to say its military, diplomatic, colonial, and financial policies, and to examine how these interacted with broader social and cultural issues, such as the need to manage social elites, to cope with the expectations of public opinion, and to cope with the broader intellectual changes that were undermining deference for a monarch still officially justified as reigning by the grace of God.
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