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After 1789 social divisions within rural communities and peasant antipathy to the survival of seigneurial property resulted in an intense period of extreme pressure on the rural environment. Tree felling and illegal land clearances horrified revolutionary administrators; in turn, their reports generated a légende noire of destructive peasant atavism in 1789–95 that continues to dominate the historiography of the French environment. This article challenges this légende noire on the basis of the environmental attitudes and awareness revealed in the cahiers de doléances. Moreover, environmental degradation after 1789 only continued the land clearing encouraged by decrees by Louis XV from 1760.