Between Crown and Commerce
Marseille and the Early Modern Mediterranean
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press
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Introduction: Commerce, State-Building, and Republicanism in Old Regime France
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The early modern period saw two major transformations reshaping Europe: the gradual expansion of commercial society and the rise of the modern state. Historians often view these two developments as complementary and call them “mercantilism.” This book tells a diﬀerent story. By exploring these processes in France from a local angle, it argues that absolute statecraft and commercial aggrandizement...
1. Louis XIV, Marseillais Merchants, and the Problem of Discerning the Public Good
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Louis XIV’s conquest of their city in 1660 visually and politically introduced Marseillais to the French Crown’s methods of expanding its domestic and international power. Bourbon statecraft became synonymous with commercial expansion under Jean-Baptiste Colbert, who decided that France needed to extend its commerce as early as 1651. “Providence has placed France in a situation where ...
2. Between Republic and Monarchy: Debating Commerce and Virtue
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From Colbert’s tenure as controller-general through the convocation of the Council of Commerce, methods for overseeing Marseillais merchants drew on the notion that they required royal guidance. Underlying this idea was the assumption that commerce was potentially beneficial to state and society but involved dangers: fluctuations in the market, physical and political threats...
3. France and the Levantine Merchant: The Challenges of an International Market
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“Trade is a Pandora’s box,” the Marseille négociant and académicien Pierre-Augustin Guys protested in 1786.1 While royal administrators and aristocratic Marseillais historians provided positive evaluations of honorable and virtuous négociants, the traditional view that commerce fostered political and moral instability persisted through the eighteenth century, largely due to the transnational-...
4. Plague, Commerce, and Centralized Disease Control in Early Modern France
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Most early modern Europeans would have concurred with the physician Jérôme-Jean Pestalozzi that “Oriental plague” was the sum of everything “most contrary to life.”1 During his tour of the Levant, the Aixois botanist Joseph de Tournefort noted how frequently plague ravaged the Ottoman Empire and that the Turks refused to implement preventative measures. Ignorance and fatalism doomed...
5. Virtue Without Commerce: Civic Spirit During the Plague, 1720–1723
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Plague disrupted the activities that made a community a community. No commerce, no city. The physician Jean-Baptiste Bertrand, one of the few doctors who remained in Marseille through the epidemic, observed that the plague “dissolved society,” “severed all ties of blood and friendship, and halted trade.” “The churches, the exchange, and all public places were shut up,” he wrote; “the courts of justice...
6. Civic Religiosity and Religious Citizenship in Plague-Stricken Marseille
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While civic leaders and physicians attributed plague to foreign yeasts and anti-social acts of self-indulgence, another group of elites— religious personnel— reactivated a traditional plague discourse of divine punishment. They preached that God was unhappy with Marseille, that Jansenist heresy within the Church and immorality among the wider population had provoked God’s anger. ...
7. Postmortem: Virtue and Commerce Reconsidered
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Following the plague, Marseille convalesced from the temporary suspension of commerce and commercial civic spirit. Once trading resumed, exports from the Levant rose to pre-1715 levels at 15 million livres tournois. By 1726, Marseille recovered its status as France’s preeminent port for Levantine commerce. Trading stabilized until the mid 1730s, when a combination of famine and wars in the...
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Page Count: 272
Illustrations: 13 halftones
Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: The Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science