An Introduction to Eighteenth Century France

An Introduction to Eighteenth Century France

An Introduction to Eighteenth Century France

An Introduction to Eighteenth Century France

Excerpt

During the reign of Louis XV andLouis XVI France'sposition in Europe was markedly different from thatwhich she occupies in the middle of the twentieth century. Though in the1760s both Lorraine and Corsica had become part of France, she still lacked in 1789 Savoy, Niceand the territory around the Papal city of Avignon. Yet with this smaller territory she continued to dominate the Continent, thanks to her large and growing population, her rich natural resources and the fact that,while Germany and Italy were stilldivided into a mass of small states, she had long been unified.

Her population naturally fell far short of the 44 millionsof the France of our day. Wars and, above all,economic distress at the end of the reign of Louis XIV hadprobably reduced the population to some 18 or 19 millions; but the prosperity which France enjoyed for a considerable part of theeighteenth century, together with the fall in the death rate whichtook place there as in other European countries, raised thepopulation by 1789 to some 25 or 26 millions. Despite her 44million inhabitants, France today has fallen behind notonly the Soviet Union, but Germany,Britain and even Italy. Inour period only the Austrian Empire with its motley collection ofterritories and peoples could rival France inpopulation, and continued throughout the eighteenth century to show acomparable growth in numbers. At the beginning of the period the other European countries were very sparsely populated. Thepopulation of Russia, which appears to have caught upwith that of France by 1789, is estimated atsome 14 millions, that of Spain at 5, and that of Prussia at only 2. In contrastto the 18 or 19 million inhabitants of France at the beginningof the century, the population of England was only some 5millions. When at last the censuses of 1801 provide more or lessreliable figures, we find that the total population of England andWales came to less than 9 millions, compared with 28 millions inFrance.

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