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The Crisis of the Absolute MonarchyFrance from Old Regime to Revolution$
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Julian Swann and Joël Félix

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780197265383

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197265383.001.0001

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How, and How Not, to Use the Concept of Crisis in the Reign of Louis XVI*

How, and How Not, to Use the Concept of Crisis in the Reign of Louis XVI*

(p.29) 2 How, and How Not, to Use the Concept of Crisis in the Reign of Louis XVI*
The Crisis of the Absolute Monarchy

Jean-Pierre Poussou

British Academy

This chapter demonstrates that the idea of a ‘general crisis’ affecting the whole of Louis XVI's reign is unsustainable. This is particularly true of the French economy, where the influence of Ernest Labrousse has long dominated our understanding of the period. Far from experiencing a general economic downturn, which made 1789 a ‘revolution of misery’, the pattern of industrial and agricultural production and colonial trade was far more positive. Problems arose primarily from the failure of political reform, especially in fiscal matters, but they only took a dramatic turn for the worst after the summoning of the Assembly of Notables in the Spring of 1787.

Keywords:   economic crisis, Ernest Labrousse, Louis XVI, Assembly of Notables, revolution of misery

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