Economic development in early modern France : the privilege of liberty, 1650-1820


Economic development in early modern France : the privilege of liberty, 1650-1820

Jeff Horn

(Cambridge studies in economic history)

Cambridge University Press, 2015

  • : hardback

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Includes bibliographical references (p. 285-304) and index



Privilege has long been understood as the constitutional basis of Ancien Regime France, legalizing the provision of a variety of rights, powers and exemptions to some, whilst denying them to others. In this fascinating new study however, Jeff Horn reveals that Bourbon officials utilized privilege as an instrument of economic development, freeing some sectors of the economy from pre-existing privileges and regulations, while protecting others. He explores both government policies and the innovations of entrepreneurs, workers, inventors and customers to uncover the lived experience of economic development from the Fronde to the Restoration. He shows how, influenced by Enlightenment thought, the regime increasingly resorted to concepts of liberty to defend privilege as a policy tool. The book offers important new insights into debates about the impact of privilege on early industrialization, comparative economic development and the outbreak of the French Revolution.


  • Acknowledgements
  • List of abbreviations
  • 1. Introduction: profits and economic development during the Old Regime
  • 2. Privileged enclaves and the guilds: liberty and regulation
  • 3. The privilege of liberty put to the test: industrial development in Normandy
  • 4. Companies, colonies, and contraband: commercial privileges under the Old Regime
  • 5. Privilege, liberty, and managing the market: trading with the Levant
  • 6. Outside the body politic, essential to the body economic: the privileges of Jews, Protestants and foreign residents
  • 7. Privilege, innovation, and the state: entrepreneurialism and the lessons of the Old Regime
  • 8. The reign of liberty? Privilege after 1789
  • Bibliography
  • Index.

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