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CHAPTER 4 THE SEVEN YEARS WAR AND THE FRENCHECONOMY "I had a much better opinion of the Country of France this time than the last. "J ISTORIAJVS have disagreed about the economic effects of old regime wars in general and in particular. But through their disagreements runs one point of universal consent: these wars seriously damaged trade. Nowhere is this held to be more evident than in the case of France in the Seven Years War. Even Charles Carriere, who wishes to temper the interpretation of the effects of war on trade, has to admit that trade was brutally disrupted by war.2 Curiosity is pricked especially by the problem of measuring losses in the commercial sector. WAR AND T H E I N T E R N A T I O N A L E C O N O M Y "Au XVIIP siecle, une Europe sans rivages a developpe ses echanges avec les autres continents, fondant ainsi les conditions d'un enrichissement sans precedent/'^ In France, which shared in this groundswell toward prosperity, the most dynamic sector of the old regime economy was the sector of trade. Yet its path of growth was irregular. In the customary interpretation this irregularity is said to have had less to do with changes in the pace of growth in the domestic economy than with maritime wars, in which France in the eighteenth century found itself in confrontation with the largest naval power of the age, Britain. During conflicts, the British navy regularly sought to block the commerce of its rival, France, and British privateers took as many French ships as they could find and cap1 See n. 58 below. ' Charles Carriere, Negocwnts marseillais au XVIII' necle (2 vols.; n.p., n.d.), I, 395. 5 Paul Butel's view in "Les Ameriques et l'Europe," in Pierre Leon, ed., Histoire economique et sociale du monde (Paris, 1978), II, 51. H 1 0 4 SEVEN YEARS WAR AND FRENCH ECONOMY ture. In the Seven Years War Britain also occupied several French colonies (Canada, Guadeloupe, Domingue, and Martinique). The image of the effect of war, and especially the Seven Years War, on French trade is nearly uniform in the literature: seriously disrup­ tive,* "brutale,"s brutally disruptive,6 "vraiment desastreuse,"7 "tres prejudiciable,"8 "unmitigated disaster";9 "The Seven Years' War battered the economies of France's maritime centers." 10 Where dif­ ferences of opinion are evident is in the scale of the catastrophe and in its timing.'' Yet, as is evident from Chart 4.1, which depicts French trade in current values, the trend of commercial activity was one of impres­ sive growth in an age of war. 12 Between 1716 and 1720, when the first balances are available, aggregate trade activity (imports plus ex4 Theophile Malvezin, Histoire du commerce de Bordeaux, depuis les engines jusqu'a nos jours (3 vols.; Bordeaux, 1892), III, 42. 5 Carriere, Negociants marseillais, I, 395. 6 Frangois Crouzet, "Angleterre et France au XVIII e siecle: Essai d'analyse com­ pared de deux croissances economiques," Annates E.S.C, 21, no. 2 (Mar.-Apr. 1966), 264. 7 Frangois Crouzet, "La conjuncture bordelaise," in Frangois-Georges Pariset, Bor­ deaux au XVIlI' siecle (Bordeaux, 1968), 299. 8 Pierre Dardel, Navires et marchandises dans les ports de Rouen et du Havre au XVIII' siecle (Paris, 1963), 50. 9 John G. Clark, La Rochelle and the Atlantic Economy during the Eighteenth Century (Baltimore, 1981), 17. Also Jacob M. Price, France and the Chesapeake: A History of the French Tobacco Monopoly . . . (2 vols.; Ann Arbor, 1973), I, 392; and Jean Tarrade, Le commerce colonial de la France a lafin de I'ancien rigime: !.'evolution du rSgime de "I'Exclusif 'de 1763 a iy8^ (Paris, 1972), II, 774. '° Clark, La Rochelle, 157. " Unlike most authorities, Carriere, Meyer, and Villiers emphasize rapid postwar recoveries and argue that the effects of war were not as severe as is often said. Car­ riere, Negociants marseillais, 395ff. and 521; Jean Meyer, L'armement nantais dans la deuxieme moitii du XVlIl' siecle (Paris, 1969), 82; and Patrick Villiers, Le commerce colo­ nial atlantique et la guerre d'independance des Etats Unis d'Amerique, 1JJ8-1J83 (New York, 1977), 457. Also Crouzet, "La conjoncture bordelaise," 300-301 and 302, notes the rapidity of postwar recovery but insists on a bleak image of war costs. 12 This chart is based on data supplied by Ruggiero Romano, "Documenti e prime considerazioni intorno alia 'Balance du commerce' della Francia dal 1716 a...


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