National qualifications curriculum support

Download 89.06 Kb.
Size89.06 Kb.


Annotated Bibliography for

France in the Age of Louis XIV


Iain Rose


First published 2001

Electronic version 2002

© Learning and Teaching Scotland 2001
This publication may be reproduced in whole or in part for educational purposes by educational establishments in Scotland provided that no profit accrues at any stage.

Learning and Teaching Scotland gratefully acknowledge this contribution to the Higher Still support programme for History.

ISBN 1 85955 904 2
Learning and Teaching Scotland

Gardyne Road




Introduction iv

Section 1: General surveys 1

Section 2: France under Louis XIV 3

Section 3: Collections of sources 5

Section 4: Primary sources 7

Section 5: Collections of essays 9

Section 6: Louis and religion 11
Section 7: Absolutism 15

Section 8: Louis and government 19
Section 9: Local resistance 21
Section 10: Finance 23
Section 11: Versailles 25

Louis XIV, ‘the Sun King’, was a central and controversial figure in European politics during his lifetime and he has attracted the attention of historians ever since. While attention was at first concentrated on the King, his ministers, their motives and policies, more recent studies have examined the effects of Louis’ government on different segments of France – either regions or social classes.
This change in perspective has broadened the historical debate. While older histories tended to assume that building up a centralised State was desirable and successful, local studies question the desirability and effectiveness of these policies. They also show that the grandiose claims of Louis XIV at the centre of government were not matched by reality in the localities, and they demonstrate how central government had to resort to various methods of intimidation and manipulation to achieve an apparently successful outcome. In this way, many of the ‘achievements’ of Louis XIV and his ministers have been brought into question.
The whole idea and ideal of ‘Absolutism’ has been scrutinised from a number of viewpoints, either as a philosophical concept, a political necessity or as a myth and a façade. The interaction of these viewpoints can be intriguing as various historians produce evidence to support their particular argument.
The religious policies of Louis XIV were a source of controversy even during his lifetime. Protestant writers were deeply hostile to his treatment of Huguenots (French Protestants) and used it to whip up European opinion against Louis. As it was, most French people at the time supported his actions and welcomed his final act of withdrawing any recognition of their religion. Over time, the debate about Louis’ religious policy has widened especially when historians attempt to reconcile his policies to Protestants with his attitudes to the Pope and to other Roman Catholics who did not conform to his religious views.
Louis attended chapel regularly and it has been said that while Louis worshipped God, the Court worshipped Louis. Everyday life at the royal palaces was made to centre upon the presence of the King where even a nod in passing was considered to be a great honour. Court life under Louis was designed to impress visitors, France and all of Europe with the dignity and power of France and its monarch. Art and architecture were used as much for a political purpose as for anything else. Louis wished France to become the centre of European culture and he, of course, was the pinnacle at the centre of France. Louis’ personal symbol, the sun, had been carefully chosen. Several diaries kept by his courtiers and Louis’ own writings give a very vivid impression of Court life during the reign of le Roi Soleil.
While a huge amount has been written about Louis XIV, this bibliography is limited to materials written or translated into English.


The following books include a general survey of France at the time of Louis XIV.

Bergin, J, The Seventeenth Century, Short Oxford History of Europe, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001

This book gives an interesting and readable European overview of topics such as the Economy, Society, Politics, the Age of Curiosity – each written by a specialist in the field. France is included, but only as one area amongst many.

Briggs, Robin, Early Modern France 1560–1715, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977

Covering more than just the reign of Louis XIV, this is a useful starting point for readers who want to put Louis XIV in context and see how government, the economy, society and culture developed in France in the 17th century.

Lockyer, Roger, Hapsburg and Bourbon Europe 1470–1720, London: Longman, 1974

Although a standard general introduction to the period in its day, this book is now beginning to appear rather dated in its focus and outlook. Indeed, it may be useful to compare it to similar books written more recently and listed here to see how the focus has changed in the last thirty years.

MacKay, D and Scott, H M, The Rise of the Great Powers 1648–1815, London: Longman, 1983

While the focus of this book is on international relations and diplomacy across Europe, it does also consider the domestic effects of long periods of warfare on countries. Chapter 1 is specifically on the reign of Louis XIV.

Munck, Thomas, 17th Century Europe; State, Conflict and the Social Order in Europe 1598–1700, London: Macmillan, 1990

A detailed comparative survey of European history, with particular emphasis on France, the German lands, the British Isles and Scandinavia. Two chapters deal with the nature of absolutism in general and one chapter discusses the mid-century crisis against which Louis XIV reacted.

Pennington, D H, Europe in the 17th Century, London: Longman, 1989

Still useful as a survey, this is now rather dated in a number of respects, including how government actually worked during the reign of Louis XIV. It is more of a narrative type of history than Munck (above) who places more emphasis on social history.

Stoye, John, Europe Unfolding 1648–1688, Fontana History of Europe, London: Collins, 1969

In this general survey it is not easy to pick out sections which apply solely to France – using the Index is more important than using the contents pages. However, as the title suggests, Stoye sets each country in its European context.

The New Cambridge Modern History Vol. V, The Ascendancy of France 1648–1688, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961

This volume covers the history of Europe and contains two chapters specific to France (Chapter X ‘France under Louis XIV’ and Chapter XI ‘The Achievements of France in Art, Thought and Literature’). These chapters deal with the period of the Fronde and Mazarin and, although quite old, are useful in putting the personal reign of Louis in context.

There are also excellent general chapters on Economics, Philosophy, Political Thought, Church and State, Art and Architecture and the Social Foundation of States which will allow readers to place developments of France in a European context.
The New Cambridge Modern History Vol. VI, The Rise of Great Britain and Russia 1688–1725, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1970

Only one chapter is devoted to France (‘The condition of France 1688–1715’) but again the general chapters (on Cultural Change, War Finance, and Economic Activity) allow this to be placed in a wider context.

Section 2

Campbell, P R, The Ancien Regime in France trans. J W Hunt, London Historical Association Studies, 1988
Mousnier, Roland, Louis XIV, London Historical Association, 1973
Shennan, J H, Louis XIV, Lancaster Pamphlet, London: Methuen, 1986

Books on the Reign of Louis XIV
Bluche, François, Louis XIV, Oxford: Blackwell, 1990

A long laudatory biography which concentrates on Louis himself and which ignores most of the work of non-French historians. Consequently it is considered to be a bit old-fashioned and deficient – at least by non-French historians!

Goubert, Pierre, Louis XIV and Twenty Million Frenchmen, London: Penguin, 1970

Goubert considers Louis XIV in the context of the people he ruled and he evaluates, critically, the effectiveness of Louis’ government and its policies on the people of France. His perspective is very much from the people upwards rather than from the King downwards. He is scathing about Colbert (comparing him to Richelieu as a bureaucrat compared to a statesman).

Goubert explains enough about foreign policy to allow readers to understand what was happening and why the government urgently needed money and supplies. He then explores the effects of these demands on the people of France.
On the subject of France generally, he gives a panoramic rather than a detailed picture, but points out directions for further reading and specialised studies.
Sturdy, David J, Louis XIV, London: Macmillan, 1998

Sturdy gives a very clear description of the main issues in the reign of Louis XIV through theme based chapters (e.g. Louis and Government, Louis and the Church, Louis and the Direction of Ideas in France).

He synthesises scholarship to date and the different points of view rather than reflecting these different interpretations.
Treasure, G R R, 17th Century France, London: Longman/John Murray, 1981

The advantage of a book covering the whole of the 17th century is that it allows readers access to events and developments prior to Louis XIV and, in particular, the contribution of Richelieu. This will give some sense of context and continuity to policies such as the centralisation of authority and the development of the economic and religious policies of Louis XIV.

A critical eye is cast over most aspects of Louis’ reign, e.g. ‘Versailles: the Government’ is followed by a chapter on ‘The Strength and Limitations of Government’.
Treasure, G R R, Louis XIV, London: Longman, 2001

This new book is currently at the printers. It should provide a very useful and up-to date account of Louis XIV and could become a core text for this course.

Wilkinson, R, France and the Cardinals, London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1996

Much of this book covers an earlier period, but it is useful on the minority of Louis XIV.

Wolf, John B, Louis XIV, London: Panther History, 1968

By concentrating on Louis XIV and explaining his perspective, the author gives readers a clear understanding of problems and issues as Louis understood them and the policies he pursued. It also gives a very vivid and readable account of life at court. The disadvantage of this approach is that the effects and effectiveness of his policies are discussed only when Louis became obliged to change them.

Wolf, John B, ‘The Formation of a King’ in J C Rule, Louis XIV and the Craft of Kingship, Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1969, pp 102–31

This essay discusses Louis’ life up to 1661, when he was 23, and assesses the influences (good and bad) on the young King.

Section 3

Beik, William, Louis XIV and Absolutism, Boston, MA: Bedford/St Martins, 2000

A considerable number of documents have been gathered and translated here.

There is a very brief Introduction (16 pages), but each chapter has its own Introduction and some of the documents are set in context individually.
There is a useful section of ‘Thirteen Questions to Consider’ at the end of the book that will encourage readers to think about the documents they have been reading.
Although there are a large number of official documents in this collection, there are others, such as letters and memoirs, that add spice to the mix.
Campbell, P R, Louis XIV, London: Longman (Seminar Studies in History), 1993

This is a good starting point for readers new to this topic.

Campbell gives an up-to-date description of Louis XIV’s France which takes into account conflicting viewpoints and evidence but which avoids a plethora of detail.
It contains a very useful, if brief, Glossary of French terms that are likely to be encountered but that are rarely explained. The Chronology at the end of the book, however, is dominated by foreign policy.
The book contains a huge number of references to textbooks and articles (some with helpful comments) which readers can follow up. It also contains thirty-four documents (of varying length) illustrating the points made in the text.
Judge, H G, Louis XIV, London: Longman (Problems and Perspectives in History), 1965

Judge divides his selection of documents into Personal Monarchy, Heroic Monarchy, Divine Monarchy, Orthodox Monarchy and Regulative Monarchy. There is a very short Introduction to each chapter and some of the documents are quoted at considerable length, e.g. six pages are devoted to an extract from the ‘Memoirs of the King’.

There is a short chapter on ‘Historians of the Reign’, and another on ‘Some Perspectives Considered’ which is useful in guiding the reader towards a different view of Louis.

Lough, J, France Observed in the 17th Century by British Travellers, Stocksfield: Oriel Press, 1985

This is not a collection of extracts or sources, but it does contain a number of lengthy quotations which could be useful – especially as evidence in a dissertation.

Mallia-Milanes, V, Louis XIV and France, London: Macmillan (Documents and Debates), 1986

A useful, short collection of documentary extracts.

Mettam, R, Government and Society in Louis XIV’s France, London: Macmillan (History in Depth), 1977

While the Contents page indicates 286 documents, some of these are made up of several lengthy sections, so there is a huge amount of primary source material here.

The book is divided into sensible sections which are preceded and interrupted by Mettam’s introductions and commentary along with detailed footnotes.
Readers will need to be reasonably familiar with 17th-century France before they begin to dip into this book.
Smith, David L, Louis XIV, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press (Topics in History), 1992

This book is aimed at A-level students, and both the text and the translations of documents reflect this. The introductory chapter lays out the main issues clearly, and the chapters that follow are devoted to individual topics – Absolutism, Economic, Social and Religious Policies, Versailles, and the work of historians.

Each topic is explained and discussed before individual documents are placed in context and their main points highlighted. These points are then followed up by questions which, although they do not reflect the type of questions appearing in Advanced Higher, will encourage readers to pay close attention to what they are reading and assess its significance.

Section 4

Letters from Liselotte Elisabeth-Charlotte, Princess Palatine and Duchess

of Orleans, ed. and translator Maria Kroll, London: Allison & Busby, 1988

These letters began in 1672 when Elizabeth-Charlotte, Princess Palatine arrived in France to marry the younger brother of Louis XIV and continued until her death in 1722.

Liselotte did not have a happy time in France; she was neglected by her husband, devastated by the French invasion of the Palatine and was the victim of court intrigues. Nevertheless, she kept up a lively correspondence and, in reading it, it is very easy to forget that she was one of the most important people in France especially when she lets rip at her pet targets, such as Madame de Maintenon (‘The old whore is a false and wicked old devil’).
There is an alternative translation of the letters available as

A Woman’s Life in the Court of the Sun King, trans. E Forster, Baltimore, MD/London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984
Louis XIV, Memoirs for the Instruction of the Dauphin, trans. P Sonnino, London: Collier-Macmillan, 1971

While there has been debate about the reliability of these memoirs because they were written to order some time after the period they purport to describe, there is little doubt that they do reflect the thinking of Louis XIV at that time. Perhaps they should be read along with his Testament to see how the King’s perspective changed over time.

The Introduction to this volume is very useful.
Saint-Simon, Louis de, Memoirs of the Duc de Saint-Simon, editor and translator Lucy Norton, Vol 1 1690–1709, 1967; Vol 2 1710–1715, London: Prion Press, 1968

Saint-Simon was a very entertaining writer and it is this which encourages us to read more and more of him and, gradually, to accept his version of life under Louis XIV. However, he wrote from a very biased perspective – he was a nobleman excluded from real power who looked down on the ‘vile bourgeois’ whose support Louis XIV depended upon to govern France.

Saint-Simon described only the last years of Louis XIV’s reign (1691–1715) and edited his diaries after the King’s death, at a time when the nobles had resumed their ‘rightful’ place in the government of France.
If readers can recognise the bias and enjoy the prejudice, this is a very lively account of life at Versailles.
Madame de Sévigné, Selected Letters, ed. and translator Leonard Tancock, London: Penguin Classics, 1982

Madame de Sévigné was a prolific letter writer who knew almost everyone of importance in France. Her letters cover a wide range of subjects from court intrigue and gossip (she was a personal friend of Madame de Maintenon) to the cultural and religious issues of the day. The letters are useful not only in revealing what happened, but also what people thought about what happened.

Unfortunately, this selection of letters does not have an index and Madame’s letters (mostly to her daughter) were irregular, so there are gaps in their coverage.

Section 5

These collections contain essays ranging over a number of topics.

Individual essays have also been listed under the specialist topic headings.

Essay collections devoted to only one topic have been listed under that topic.

Hatton, R (ed.), Louis XIV and Absolutism, London: Macmillan, 1976

This collection of essays contains a number that are worth studying.

Bluche, F, ‘The Social Origin of the Secretaries of State under Louis XIV’,

pp 85–97

Dumont, F, ‘French Kingship and Absolute Monarchy in the 17th Century’,

pp 55–84

Durand, G, ‘What is Absolutism’, pp 18–36

Kossmann, E H, ‘The Singularity of Absolutism’, pp 3–17

Levron, J, ‘Louis XIV’s Courtiers’, pp 130–153

Meuvret, J, ‘Fiscalism and Public Opinion under Louis XIV’, pp 199–225

Orbical, J, ‘Louis XIV and the Edict of Nantes’, pp 154–176
Kierstead, R F (ed.), State and Society in 17th Century France, New York: New Viewpoints, 1975

Some relevant essays in this collection are:

Bernard, Léon, ‘French Society and Popular Uprisings under Louis XIV’,

pp 157–179

Grassby, R B, ‘Social Status and Commercial Enterprise under Louis XIV’,

pp 200–232

Hurst, J J, ‘The Parlement of Brittany and the Crown 1665–1675’, pp 44–66

Lemarchand, Guy, ‘Economic Crises and Social Atmosphere in Urban Society under Louis XIV’, pp 233–264

Loirette, François, ‘Resistance to Absolutism’, pp 180–197
Rule, J C (ed.), Louis XIV and the Craft of Kingship, Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1969

Some of the essays in this collection can be used to introduce aspects of Louis XIV’s reign in more detail than would be found in general textbooks. Others are likely to stimulate ideas and contribute to critical analysis. It is important to remember that this volume was first published more than thirty years ago.

Church, William F, ‘Louis XIV and Reason of State’, pp 362–406

Judge, H G, ‘Louis XIV and the Church’, pp 240–264

Moote, A Lloyd, ‘Law and Justice under Louis XIV’, pp 225–239

Rowen, Herbert H, ‘Louis XIV and Absolutism’, pp 302–316

Rule, J C, ‘Roi Bureaucrate’, pp 20–93

Whitman, Nathan T, ‘Myth and Politics: Versailles and the Fountain of Latona’, pp 286–301

Wolf, John B, ‘The Formation of a King’, pp 102–131
Sonnino, P (ed.), The Reign of Louis XIV (Essays in Celebration of Andrew Lossky), Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1990

This is a series of introductory essays to the topic. The authors provide a summary of current thinking on each subject; for that reason alone it should be very useful.

Section 6

Benedict, P, The Huguenot Population of France 1660–1685, London: Routledge, 1991

This book covers the whole of the 17th century and so its scope is much wider than simply the reign of Louis XIV. It does, however, a lot to explain the background to the religious problem that Louis XIV had to deal with.

Doyle, William, Jansenism, London: Macmillan (Studies in European History), 2000

The divisions within the Catholic Church perplexed Louis XIV as much as the problem of the Huguenots. General histories tend to skirt over the issue and the reasons for the problem, and the depth of feeling involved can be difficult to grasp. This book explores the origins of Jansenism and follows the debate right up to the French Revolution.

This poses a problem for the reader; the focus on the role of Jansenism in feeding the revolutionary mind of 18th-century Europe diverts attention from the disputes during the reign of Louis XIV. Two chapters explain the origins of Jansenism, three cover phases of the dispute during Louis’ reign and a final two pursue it through the 18th century.
There is a very useful four-page Glossary which reminds readers what has been more fully explained in the book.
Sedgewick, A C, Jansenism in 17th-Century France, Charlotteville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1977

This very clearly written book focuses on Jansenism in France in the 17th century. To that extent it is able to concentrate on the issues which exercised the minds of people at the time of Louis XIV and to give a well explained and sympathetic picture of the victims of Louis’ concern with orthodoxy and religious uniformity without drowning them in theological details such as the neo-Pelagian heresy

van Kley, Dale, Religious Origins of the French Revolution, New Haven, CT/London: Yale University Press, 1996

Although the sweep of this book takes it up to the outbreak of the Revolution, there are sections which explain very clearly the religious basis of absolutism at the time of Louis XIV. The section ‘Aspects of Absolutism’ (pp 32–74) discusses absolutism in relation to Gallicanism, Jesuits, Jansenists and the principal figures in religious life at this time. The discussion, however, ranges through the reigns of Henry IV and Louis XIII as well as that of Louis XIV.

Readers will have to be on their toes to discriminate between trends which influenced ideas at the time of Louis XIV and incidents which are not relevant.

Essays on Religion
Briggs, Robin (ed.), Communities of Belief, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989

This essay collection concentrates on the Catholic Church and its place in society.

Hepburn, A C (ed.), Minorities in History, London: Arnold, 1978
The Huguenots in Seventeenth-Century France’, David Parker, pp 9–30

In a robust examination of the Huguenots throughout the 17th century, Parker examines the main reasons for their failure to survive far less become the dynamic and revolutionary force that the Puritans became in England. By examining the theological and social tensions that existed within the Huguenot ranks and placing them firmly within French society, Parker draws attention to the weaknesses of French Protestantism which is a useful perspective when considering the effectiveness of Louis’ religious policies.

Hatton, R (ed.), Louis XIV and Absolutism, London: Macmillan, 1976
Louis XIV and the Edict of Nantes’, J Orbical, pp 154–76

If students are inclined to consider Louis’ decision to revoke the Edict of Nantes solely in a religious context or treat it as just a step towards imposing a pleasing uniformity to which an absolute monarch aspired, this article will make them think again. By placing the Revocation in the context of international power politics, Louis’ decision will be seen in a different light.

Prestwich, Menna, ‘The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes’, History, lxxiii, 1988

This review article summarises most of the important work on this topic.

Prestwich, Menna, International Calvinism, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985

Three essays are of interest from this collection.

Chapter X, ‘Calvinism in France 1598–1685’, Elisabeth Labrousse

This article covers the whole of the Huguenot period and so it might appear that parts of it are redundant. However, it clearly describes the tensions that existed when Louis ascended the throne and explains the cumulative effect of royal policy on the survival of the Huguenots. The evaluation of royal policy is vigorous, but so too is the evaluation of the Huguenots’ reaction.

Chapter XI, ‘French Calvinist Political Thought 1534–1715’, Myriam Yardeni

Yardeni’s complex essay discusses the Huguenots’ problem of rendering obedience to a Catholic monarchy which saw them as a political danger and a menace to religious uniformity and the divisions it caused among them.

Chapter XII, ‘The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes’, Philippe Joutard

Joutard is concerned with the fate of the Protestants after the Revocation of Nantes and gives a detailed account not only of conversions but also of emigration and the effects that it had – which is useful when considering the economic consequences of the policy on France.

Rule, J C, Louis XIV and the Craft of Kingship, Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1969

Louis XIV and the Church’, H G Judge, pp 240–264

The religious policies of Louis XIV and the disputes that they caused are given a useful and readable overview in this contribution.

Section 7

In theory, this section ought to be devoted to general books on absolutism as an ideal and it should not refer to Louis XIV and his particular contribution to it. In fact, this is hardly possible. Historians writing about absolutism in the abstract tend to bolster their arguments by referring to individual absolute monarchs. This can make these books very daunting for someone who does not have a background in 17th-century European History.

On the other hand, we find that absolutism in France is a mixture of grand claims made by the monarch or his supporters and the reality of everyday life. Quite a number of books have concentrated on what was actually happening and they draw a comparison between reality and what the monarch and his central government thought or claimed was happening.
Some of the absolute monarchs’ claims to authority may be dismissed as mere boasting; it was all very well for Louis to claim the absolute disposal of his subjects’ property – he never dared to try it! Some of Louis’ claims caused conflict when he asserted his rights, and local organisations tried to wriggle out of obeying him by using a variety of methods.
The strength of Louis’ regime probably varied from province to province and from time to time – usually depending on how much Louis needed money to pay for his wars. So, readers should not be upset if they cannot get one clear picture of absolutism under Louis XIV.
Many of the general textbooks give close consideration to absolutism before they evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of Louis XIV.
Anderson P, Lineages of the Absolutist State, London: Verso Editions, 1979/1984

The relevance of a Marxist approach to 17th-century societies has always been controversial as historians have debated whether its emphasis on economic forces and social class is appropriate to the period.

Nevertheless, it offers an alternative perspective on the age, and readers who are familiar with the subject matter should find it broadens their understanding. Two chapters are relevant – Chapter 1, ‘The Absolutist State in the West’ (although it ranges across all of the west and most of its history) sets the general scene, and Chapter 4, ‘France’ where again most of its history to 1789 is included in the discussion but there is a detailed section devoted to Louis XIV.

Beik, W, Absolutism and Society in 17th-Century France: State Power and Provincial Aristocracy in Languedoc, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985

An important perspective on the relationship between central government and the provinces.

Bonney, R, The Limits of Absolutism in Ancien Régime France, Aldershot: Variorum, 1995

Bonney considers the validity of the term ‘absolutism’. There is also an article by Bonney listed below (see p17).

Collins, J B, The State in Early Modern France, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995

This book poses an interesting challenge to the concept of France as an ‘absolute monarchy’ in the early modern period.

Henshall, N, The Myth of Absolutism, London: Longman, 1992

Henshall tends to debunk the idea of absolutism and, for this reason, his book is a useful antidote to much that has been written about it.

Mettam, R, Power and Faction in Louis XIV’s France, Oxford: Blackwell, 1988

Mettam is interested in contrasting the claims of absolutism with the reality of what Louis’ government actually attempted to do and the effectiveness with which it accomplished its aims. For example, one section is entitled ‘The Crown and the Provinces: Bluff and Reality’. He treats historians of Louis’ reign in exactly the same way and discussions of historians’ views pervade this book.

For someone familiar with the topic these historiographical excursions are very useful, but a novice, unfamiliar with the evidence, may find rival interpretations of it confusing especially since, in places, the book reads like a polemic.
Interestingly, Mettam does not conclude this book with his own words. Instead he quotes two and a half pages of the oration spoken at Louis’ funeral.
Miller, John, Absolutism in 17th-Century Europe, London: Penguin, 1990

Three chapters in this book are of particular relevance: the Introduction by John Miller, Chapter 1 ‘The Idea of Absolutism’ by J H Burns and Chapter 2, ‘France’ by Roger Mettam.

The Introduction contains a lengthy discussion of the possible origins of absolutism and includes an interesting and useful discussion of a Marxist

approach to explaining it in a European context. This European dimension could cause problems for students without a knowledge of the history of other European countries.

Chapter 1 could raise similar problems but it should give readers a good picture of the idea of absolutism before they embark on the particular French example discussed in a very clear style in Chapter 2. This book should be used to develop a greater understanding of absolutism rather than as an introduction to it.
Parker, David, The Making of French Absolutism, London: Arnold, 1983

This book is mostly devoted to the origins and early development of French absolutism before 1660. But Chapter 4, ‘The Triumph and Failure of French Absolutism’, is an admirable, short survey of Louis XIV’s system.

Parker, David, Class and State in Ancien Régime France, London: Routledge, 1996

A Marxist interpretation of French society at this time, but with quite an emphasis on functionalism which readers may find difficult. And it ranges across the whole of the 17th century. In places Parker is quite critical of Perry Anderson’s Lineages of the Absolutist State (see p15).

Chapter 5 on the French Nobility and Chapter 6 on Power, Ideology and the French State are both worth reading.

Essays on Abolutism
Bonney, R, ‘Absolutism: What’s in a name?’, French History 1 (1987), pp 93–117

A review of recent publications on this subject.

Church, W F, Louis XIV in Historical Thought, New York, 1976

A guide to past interpretations of Louis XIV.

Hatton, R (ed.), Louis XIV and Absolutism, London: Macmillan, 1976
Dumont, F, ‘French Kingship and Absolute Monarchy in the 17th Century’, pp 55–83

A careful study of the origins and consequent limitations of absolutism which ranges across the 17th century, so readers have to be careful. Towards the end of the article there is a focus on the critics of absolute power, e.g. Protestants, Fénelon and Saint-Simon.

Durand, G, ‘What is Absolutism?’, pp 18–36

This is a European essay which places absolutism within its social dynamics relating it to the rise and fall of social classes and the ambitions of the state. It does help readers to understand that things – including governments – are never static but change and develop over time, although not always for the best.

Kossmann, E H, ‘The Singularity of Absolutism’, pp 3–17

This article is filled with interesting ideas, e.g. absolutism was the first political system to benefit from the printing press; the distinguishing feature of absolutism was its pretension to rise above reality. These ideas are just part of a wider discussion about absolutism which includes Republican absolutism in England and Holland, so readers will have to ‘pick and choose’.

Lossky, Andrew, ‘The Absolutism of Louis XIV: Reality or Myth’, Canadian Journal of History, no. 19, 1984, pp 1–16

This is a classic examination of the reality of Louis’ claims to authority.

Rule, J C (ed.), Louis XIV and the Craft of Kingship, Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1969
Church, William F, ‘Louis XIV and Reason of State’, pp 362–406

For centuries politicians and monarchs have invoked the higher authority of ‘Reasons of State’ to justify stepping beyond the normal boundaries of their authority or behaving in a normally unacceptable way. With Louis there was always an overlap of personal and state interests and, underlying it, a confusion of his personal authority and that of the state’s bureaucracy.

Church dissects these notions and considers their effect on aspects of domestic and foreign policy before discussing the nature of the opposition they provoked.
While Rule in his introductory essay concentrates on central authority ( a ‘top-down’ perspective), Church looks at it from the point of view of those affected by these policies.
Rowen, Herbert H, ‘Louis XIV and Absolutism’, pp 302–316

Section 8

Bluche, F, ‘The Social Origin of the Secretaries of State under Louis XIV’, in Hatton, R, Louis XIV and Absolutism, London: Macmillan, 1976, pp 85–97

Saint-Simon’s quote about the ‘reign of the vile bourgeois’ is well known and historians tend to repeat that Louis’ ministers were not drawn from the nobility. Where did they come from? Colbert claimed to be descended from a King of Scotland, but Bluche traces their roots and, while they might be ‘bourgeois’, their family trees are not ‘vile’.

Harding, R R, Anatomy of a Power Elite, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1978

This book shows how the nobility kept power under Louis XIV.

Dewald, J, ‘Politics and Personality in 17th-Century France’, French Historical Studies, xvi, 1990

An interesting and important review article.

Rule, J C (ed.), Louis XIV and the Craft of Kingship, Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1969

There are two relevant essays in this book:

Moote, A Lloyd, ‘Law and Justice under Louis XIV’, pp 225–239

While the traditional picture is that Louis curbed the Parlements and had few limitations imposed on his authority, Moote describes what actually happened and how the Parlements changed tactics to evade unwelcome royal intrusions. This article usefully balances the claims of historians who concentrate on orders rather than on the extent to which they were obeyed.

Moote also considers (and dismisses) Marxist interpretations of this issue, and the role of the Parlements in provincial uprisings.
Rule, J C, ‘Roi Bureaucrate’, pp 20–93

This introductory essay reviews Louis XIV’s principal policies and sets the scene for other essays that make up the book. It contains some interesting ideas and perspectives, but in some areas the debate has moved on.

Scott, H M, The European Nobilities in the 17th and 18th Centuries, London: Longman, 1995

This book is in two volumes. The first has an extended study of the French aristocracy and includes the reign of Louis XIV.

Section 9

There are two strands to this section.
Firstly, the local institutions, the Parlements and the Estates tried to resist or to exploit the increasing power of central government.
Secondly, there are a number of studies of local revolts which were sometimes directly related to the activities of central government, especially if extending taxation was involved.
Ascher E L, Resistance to the Maritime Classes, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1960

Colbert’s rational but elaborate scheme to recruit sailors without having to press-gang them and make their families destitute was sabotaged because of opposition from the men, the Church, the Estates and the Parlements. This very detailed book does show the limits of absolutism, but it may be too technical for some readers.

Beik, W, Urban Protest in 17th-Century France, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997

An innovative and colourful analysis of urban unrest both before and during Louis XIV’s reign.

Bercé, Y-M, History of Peasant Revolts: The Social Origins of Rebellion in Early Modern France, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990

This work has more detailed material on the first half of the 17th century than on the second half; but the general chapters cover the whole century.

This will be a worthwhile book for those prepared to make full use of the Index as well as the chapter headings.
Goubert, P, French Peasantry in the 17th Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986

The classic overview of French rural history from one of the most eminent social historians in France.

Kierstead, R F (ed.), State and Society in 17th-Century France, New York: New Viewpoints, 1975

The following essays are relevant to this topic:

Bernard, Léon, ‘French Society and Popular Uprisings under Louis XIV’, pp 157–179

This analysis of five provincial revolts takes account of the theories of Marxist historians, as well as the work of Mousnier, which offers a different interpretation. In a detailed examination, Bernard finds both deficient.

Hurst, J J, ‘The Parlement of Brittany and the Crown 1665–1675’, pp 44–66

This is a detailed account of the 1675 revolt in Brittany.

Loirette, François, ‘Resistance to Absolutism’, pp 180–197

One of a series of detailed studies that shows how a local community reacted to encroachments by central authority wanting to extend its tax base.

Le Roy Ladurie, Emmanuel, The Peasantry of Languedoc, trans. John Day, Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1974

A classic text that looks in detail at events in one part of France rather than at what the central authority claimed was happening in the country as a whole.

Salmon, J H M, ‘Venal Office and Popular Sedition’, Past and Present, vol 37, 1967

This article illustrates how the venal officials, who had bought their offices and so had paid highly for their privileges, tried to prevent the further sale of offices which would dilute their status.

Section 10

Most of the general textbooks deal at length with the financial policies and

difficulties of Louis XIV. These books and articles tend to be more specialised.
Cipolla, C M, The Fontana Economic History of Europe: The 16th and 17th Centuries, London: Collins, 1969
Coveney, P J, France in Crisis 1620–1675, London: Macmillan, 1997

This book is a contribution to the debate about the General Crisis in 17th-century Europe. It begins with a detailed examination of the possible roots of the crisis and the tensions they created. It also discusses the historiography of the ‘17th-Century Crisis’ (and what is meant by the word ‘crisis’) by drawing on detailed examples from other European countries before embarking on a discussion relating more to France.

Given the amount of closely detailed evidence presented in this book, its references to other areas of Europe and the historiographical references, readers would have to be confident in their knowledge and be familiar with most of the ideas before they began to read it. They should then find it stimulating.
Dent, J, Crisis in Finance, London, 1973

This book covers the whole century and should be read selectively.

Hatton, R, Louis XIV and Absolutism, London: Macmillan, 1976, pp 199–225

Looks at the theories of Colbert and the opposition they aroused.

Kierstead, R F (ed.), State and Society in 17th-Century France, New York: New Viewpoints, 1975

There are two essays in this book worth studying:

Grassby, R B, ‘Social Status and Commercial Enterprise under Louis XIV’

This article provides a detailed discussion of why the French nobility did not get involved in trade, and of the uneasy relationship self-made men had with the titles they had bought. It sheds useful light on Colbert’s ideas and projects.

Lemarchand, Guy, ‘Economic Crises and Social Atmosphere in Urban Society under Louis XIV’

In a very readable account of the effects of a famine on Upper Normandy, Lemarchand examines how the different social classes were affected and how they related to each other in the face of potential disaster and disorder.

Meuvret, J, ‘Fiscalism and Public Opinion under Louis XIV’, in Hatton, R, Louis XIV and Absolutism, London: Macmillan, 1976, pp 199-224

Looks at the theories of Colbert and the opposition they aroused.

Trout, A, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Boston, 1978

A conventional and not especially informative study of a minister who deserves much closer scrutiny.

A number of the books and articles on absolutism and on the government of France give contrasting views about the effectiveness and value of his work.

Section 11

Adam, A, Grandeur and Illusion, London, 1972

A study of French literature and society (1600–1715) that places literature in its social context.

Asch, R R, Princes, Patrons and Nobility, Oxford: German Historical Institute/Oxford University Press, 1991

This book offers a number of good essays and an Introduction which is well worth reading.

Berger, R W, Versailles: the Château of Louis XIV, University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1985

This book contains some particularly useful references to source material.

Berger, R W, A Royal Passion, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994

Louis XIV as a patron of architecture.

Burke, Peter, The Fabrication of Louis XIV, New Haven, CT and London: Yale University Press, 1992

This is a fascinating study of how Louis paid attention to his public image even to the extent of allowing an engraving of him visiting the Academy of Science to be made although he never actually went there. He thought it was important to give the impression that he was a patron of the sciences.

At times this can be a difficult book to read – students may well need help with some of the passages – but the overall impression is of a carefully constructed and re-constructed image of a king which evolved as times and fashions changed.
Levron, J, ‘Louis XIV’s Courtiers’, in Hatton, R, Louis XIV and Absolutism, London: Macmillan, 1976, pp 130–153

This is a close study of who did stay in attendance at Versailles and the life, style and role of the courtiers there – especially after Madam de Maintenon’s influence became pervasive.

Maland, David, Culture and Society in 17th-Century France, London: Batsford, 1970

Very readable and a good, easy introduction.

Norbert, E, The Court Society, London, 1983

A sociological examination of the dynamics of the court. The author’s views have been questioned by J Duindam in Myths of Power: Norbert Elias and the

Early Modern European Court, Amsterdam, 1996. These books are European and readers have to place them in a French context.
Rubin, J, Sun King: The Ascendancy of French Culture during the Reign of Louis XIV, Washington, DC: AUP, 1992

A collection of essays on culture and the arts in France under Louis XIV.

Tapie, V L, The Age of Grandeur: Baroque and Classicism in Europe, London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1960

Considers how the baroque was received in France.

Walton, Guy, Louis XIV’s Versailles, London: Viking, 1986

This is just one of many highly illustrated books about the Palace of Versailles and its grounds.

Whitman, N T, ‘Myth and Politics: Versailles and the Fountain of Latona’, in Rule, J C, Louis XIV and the Craft of Kingship, Columbus, OH: Ohio State University Press, 1969, pp 286–301

The focus of this article is the Fountain of Latona in the gardens of Versailles and how Louis XIV used classical symbolism to make a political point. Latona, Apollo’s mother, was prevented from drinking water by some hostile peasants. She called down the wrath of the stars who punished the peasants by turning them into frogs.

Whitman discusses not only the artistic origins of the composition (Latona and her children in a classical Greek style and the peasants/frogs in a natural North European style), but also relates it to Louis’ attitude towards the Fronde. This article is a useful starter for further examination of royal patronage of the arts under Louis because it raises awareness of so many other points to consider.

Download 89.06 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2023
send message

    Main page