resulting from earlier efforts to reconstitute their patrimony was a major cause of what Denis calls "l'effacement des grands seigneurs," which occurred in the Mayenne during the Restoration, as the great court families sold up and left the department for good. 32
The publicity given to Denis's important but localized findings contrasts with the current neglect of the only work to use quantitative national data on the impact of revolutionary confiscations and sales: Gain's monumental study-- published in the 1920s--of the Indemnity Law of 1825, which provided compensation for losses incurred through emigration. 33 The recent disappearance of this work from the historiography has been most convenient for the revisionist case, since it offers strong support for the traditional view. Of the 25,000 émigrés from all classes of society who received some compensation for lands sold during the Revolution, it is Gain's conviction that the "majority . . . were nobles." 34 If this is so, we must conclude that however successful émigrés were subsequently in reconstituting their domains, comparatively few had avoided expropriation and sale in the first instance. Maybe--that is taking the worst possible case scenario based on the lowest estimate of their overall number--every other noble family suffered some significant loss.
It would be wrong to end this chapter on a definitive note. Firm conclusions are out of order in a field of study where answers to the basic quantitative questions--how many nobles were there in 1789, how many emigrated, and how many were expropriated?--rely on such a large dose of impressionism. (Indeed, this chapter is also intended as a plea for further research into such questions at a time when the vogue is for work to be pursued across rather than along the lines of ancien régime order). 35 All that can be said with any degree of confidence is that the balance of available evidence is on the side of Forster's first rather second thoughts. How has so much professional opinion reached the opposite conclusion? Surely it is because the revisionist paradigm has operated in the same way as Marxist theory before it. Rather than an assembly of empirical conclusions, revisionism is better seen as a cluster of a priori propositions that have governed the historians' selection of evidence. Unlike what is found in Marxism, these propositions are not derived from a positive theory or philosophy of history. Instead, they result from a negation or inversion of Marxist theses. After theory comes not empiricism but antitheory.
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Publication information: Book title: The French Revolution of 1789 and Its Impact. Contributors: Gail M. Schwab - Editor, John R. Jeanneney - Editor. Publisher: Greenwood Press. Place of publication: Westport, CT. Publication year: 1995. Page number: 186.