The Abolition of Feudalism: Peasants, Lords, and Legislators in the French Revolution

By John Markoff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER
2

SEIGNEURIAL RIGHTS ON THE REVOLUTIONARY AGENDA

For all the attention the rural insurrections of 1789 have received, there is still a great deal to learn. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie has suggested that the revolts provide us with a window into a great transformation of the French countryside. He is struck by the contrast with the great seventeenthcentury movements of violent resistance to the fiscal pressures of the growing state. After a long interval in which the defeated peasantry raised no major challenge, the distinctive target of the rural upheavals of the early Revolution had switched from the claims of the state to those of the lord. Understanding this shift, Le Roy Ladurie contends, should illuminate the rural history of France in modern times. Behind the change in peasant actions must lie major changes in French institutions.1

We can try to understand what had made the demands of their lords so central a focus of the revolutionary mobilization of the French countryside

____________________
1
Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, "Révoltes et contestations rurales en France de 1675 à 1788," Annales: Economies, Sociétés, Civilisations 29 ( 1974): 6-22.

-16-

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