The French Nobility in the Eighteenth Century:From Feudalism to Enlightenment

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One of the most lively of France's younger historians, Guy Chaussinand-Nogaret argues in this pioneering essay that the traditional picture of the pre-revolutionary French nobility as a caste of intransigent reactionaries and parasites is a fabrication of revolutionary propaganda. Using a whole range of new research and calculations, he argues that the nobility represented all that was most vigorous and forward-looking in eighteenth-century French society. Constantly renewing itself by recruiting the richest members of the middle classes or marrying their daughters, the nobility was in the forefront of French economic and intellectual life, and until 1789 was at the head of the movement for reform of the old regime state. In an afterword specially written for the English edition, the author explains how the revolutionaries came to turn against a group that had done more than any other to bring about the Revolution.
Publication Date: 
May 16, 1985