Turgot and the Ancien Régime in France

Turgot and the Ancien Régime in France

Turgot and the Ancien Régime in France

Turgot and the Ancien Régime in France

Excerpt

No comprehensive study of Turgot's life and administration has appeared in English during the last forty years. Of the nineteenth-century works upon him in our language none is really of great value to-day. Hodgson Turgot : his Life, Times and Opinions (1870) was written long before Foncin brought to light many important sources for his scholarly narrative,Essai sur le ministgre de Turgot, which was published in 1887. Morley chapter in the Critical Miscellanies, Second Series, 1877, gives a fairly full account of Turgot's early years and a résumé' of his philosophical and economic thought; and it also devotes a section to Turgot as intendant, though it does not, apparently, draw upon the valuable material in d'Hugues's excellent monograph, L'Essai sur I'administration de Turgot dans la généralité de Limoges, which had appeared in 1859. By far the most satisfactory work on Turgot in English is Stephens, The Life and Writings of Turgot (1895), which, in as far as it is concerned with his political career and administration as Comptroller-General, is based mainly on Foncin Essai. From that source it reproduces a number of inaccuracies; yet what makes it more out of date is the standpoint from which it is written -- that of the nineteenth-century liberal's veneration for one of the founders of his creed. It tends, too, to simplify the political, administrative, and economic history of Turgot's age.

During the present century our knowledge of Turgot's life and work has grown considerably; and the output of literature on the ancien régime has been so great that the background to a new biography must necessarily take a different form from that of earlier studies. The present century, too, has given us a new edition of Turgot's works -- Gustave Schelle Œuvres de Turgot in five large volumes (1913-1923), containing not only the Editor's own researches but also those of scholars who worked before him -- d'Hugues, Foncin, Neymarck, Lafarge, and others. Needless to say this edition (see Bibliographical Note on page 307), which leaves nothing to be desired, can never be superseded. A

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