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Love, Kinship, and Power in Provincial France, 1670–1880
Becoming Bourgeois traces the fortunes of three French families in the municipality of Vannes, in Brittany—Galles, Jollivet, and Le Ridant—who rose to prominence in publishing, law, the military, public administration, and intellectual pursuits over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Revisiting complex issues of bourgeois class formation from the perspective of the interior lives of families, Christopher H. Johnson argues that the most durable and socially advantageous links forging bourgeois ascent were those of kinship. Economic success, though certainly derived from the virtues of hard work and intelligent management, was always underpinned by marriage strategies and the diligent intervention of influential family members.
Johnson's examination of hundreds of personal letters opens up a whole world: the vicissitudes of courtship; the centrality of marriage; the depths of conjugal love; the routines of pregnancy and the drama of childbirth; the practices of child rearing and education; the powerful place of siblings; the role of kin in advancing the next generation; tragedy and deaths; the enormous contributions of women in all aspects of becoming bourgeois; and the pleasures of gathering together in intimate soirées, grand balls, country houses, and civic and political organizations. Family love bound it all together, and this is ultimately what this book is about, as four generations of rather ordinary provincial people capture our hearts.
Mapping the Geographies of French Identity, 1871-1914
The Ancien Regime of the Novel
Fiction has become nearly synonymous with literature itself, as if Homer and Dante and Pynchon were all engaged in the same basic activity. But one difficulty with this view is simply that a literature trafficking in openly invented characters is a quite recent development. Novelists before the nineteenth century ceaselessly asserted that their novels were true stories, and before that, poets routinely took their basic plots and heroes from the past. We have grown accustomed to thinking of the history of literature and the novel as a progression from the ideal to the real. Yet paradoxically, the modern triumph of realism is also the triumph of a literature that has shed all pretense to literalness.
Before Fiction: The Ancien Régime of the Novel offers a new understanding of the early history of the genre in England and France, one in which writers were not slowly discovering a type of fictionality we now take for granted but rather following a distinct set of practices and rationales. Nicholas D. Paige reinterprets Lafayette's La Princesse de Clèves, Rousseau's Julie, ou la Nouvelle Héloïse, Diderot's La Religieuse, and other French texts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in light of the period's preoccupation with literal truth. Paige argues that novels like these occupied a place before fiction, a pseudofactual realm that in no way leads to modern realism. The book provides an alternate way of looking at a familiar history, and in its very idiom and methodology charts a new course for how we should study the novel and think about the evolution of cultural forms.
Public Debt, Inequality, and the Intellectual Origins of the French Revolution
Ever since the French Revolution, Madame de Pompadour's comment, "Après moi, le déluge" (after me, the deluge), has looked like a callous if accurate prophecy of the political cataclysms that began in 1789. But decades before the Bastille fell, French writers had used the phrase to describe a different kind of selfish recklessness--not toward the flood of revolution but, rather, toward the flood of public debt. In Before the Deluge, Michael Sonenscher examines these fears and the responses to them, and the result is nothing less than a new way of thinking about the intellectual origins of the French Revolution.
In this nightmare vision of the future, many prerevolutionary observers predicted that the pressures generated by modern war finance would set off a chain of debt defaults that would either destroy established political orders or cause a sudden lurch into despotic rule. Nor was it clear that constitutional government could keep this possibility at bay. Constitutional government might make public credit more secure, but public credit might undermine constitutional government itself.
Before the Deluge examines how this predicament gave rise to a widespread eighteenth-century interest in figuring out how to establish and maintain representative governments able to realize the promise of public credit while avoiding its peril. By doing so, the book throws new light on a neglected aspect of modern political thought and on the French Revolution.
The Trials of Marguerite Porete and Guiard of Cressonessart
On 31 May 1310, at the Place de Grève in Paris, the Dominican inquisitor William of Paris read out a sentence that declared Marguerite “called Porete,” a beguine from Hainault, to be a relapsed heretic, released her to secular authority for punishment, and ordered that all copies of a book she had written be confiscated. William next consigned Guiard of Cressonessart, an apocalyptic activist in the tradition of Joachim of Fiore and a would-be defender of Marguerite, to perpetual imprisonment. Over several months, William of Paris conducted inquisitorial processes against them, complete with multiple consultations of experts in theology and canon law. Though Guiard recanted at the last moment and thus saved his life, Marguerite went to her execution the day after her sentencing.
When two European scientists unexpectedly inherit an Indian rajah's fortune, each builds an experimental city of his dreams in the wilds of the American Northwest. France-Ville is a harmonious urban community devoted to health and hygiene, the specialty of its French founder, Dr. Francois Sarrasin. Stahlstadt, or City of Steel, is a fortress-like factory town devoted to the manufacture of high-tech weapons of war. Its German creator, the fanatically pro-Aryan Herr Schultze, is Verne's first truly evil scientist. In his quest for world domination and racial supremacy, Schultze decides to showcase his deadly wares by destroying France-Ville and all its inhabitants. Both prescient and cautionary, The Begum's Millions is a masterpiece of scientific and political speculation and constitutes one of the earliest technological utopia/dystopias in Western literature. This Wesleyan edition features notes, appendices, and a critical introduction as well as all the illustrations from the original French edition.
Marseille and the Early Modern Mediterranean
Between Crown and Commerce examines the relationship between French royal statecraft, mercantilism, and civic republicanism in the context of the globalizing economy of the early modern Mediterranean world. This is the story of how the French Crown and local institutions accommodated one another as they sought to forge acceptable political and commercial relationships with one another for the common goal of economic prosperity. Junko Thérèse Takeda tells this tale through the particular experience of Marseille, a port the monarchy saw as key to commercial expansion in the Mediterranean. At first, Marseille’s commercial and political elites were strongly opposed to the Crown’s encroaching influence. Rather than dismiss their concerns, the monarchy cleverly co-opted their civic traditions, practices, and institutions to convince the city’s elite of their important role in Levantine commerce. Chief among such traditions were local ideas of citizenship and civic virtue. As the city’s stature throughout the Mediterranean grew, however, so too did the dangers of commercial expansion as exemplified by the arrival of the bubonic plague. Marseille’s citizens reevaluated citizenship and merchant virtue during the epidemic, while the French monarchy's use of the crisis as an opportunity to further extend its power reanimated republican vocabulary. Between Crown and Commerce deftly combines a political and intellectual history of state-building, mercantilism, and republicanism with a cultural history of medical crisis. In doing so, the book highlights the conjoined history of broad transnational processes and local political change.
The French Overseas Penal Colonies, 1854-1952
An understanding of modern France is not complete without an examination of this institution, which existed for more than a century and imprisoned more than one hundred thousand people. Stephen A. Toth invites readers to experience the prisons firsthand. Through a careful analysis of criminal case files, administrative records, and prisoner biographies, Toth reconstructs life in the penal colonies and examines how the social sciences, tropical medicine, and sensational journalism evaluated and exploited the inmates’ experiences. In exploring the disjuncture between the real and the imagined, he moves beyond mythic characterizations of the penal colonies to reveal how power, discipline, and punishment were construed and enforced in these prison outposts.
Covering Principally the Period 1975 to 2010
Adoption and Family Life in Early Modern France
In Paris during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the practice of adopting children was strongly discouraged by cultural, religious, and legal authorities on the grounds that it disrupted family blood lines. In fact, historians have assumed that adoption had generally not been practiced in France or in the rest of Europe since late antiquity. Challenging this view, Kristin Gager brings to light evidence showing how married couples and single men and women from the artisan neighborhoods in early modern Paris did manage to adopt children as their legal heirs. In so doing, she offers a new, richly detailed portrait of family life, civil law, and public assistance in Paris, and reveals how citizens forged a wide variety of family forms in defiance of social, cultural, and legal norms.
Gager bases her work on documents ranging from previously unexplored notarized contracts of adoption to court cases, theological treatises, and literary texts. She examines two main patterns of adoption: those privately arranged between households and those of destitute children from the Parisian foundling hospice and the Hôtel-Dieu. Gager argues that although customary law rejected adoption and promoted an exclusively biological model of the family, there existed an alternative domestic culture based on a variety of "fictive" ties. Gager connects her arguments to current debates about adoption and the nature of the family in Europe and the United States.
Originally published in 1996.
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