Reviewed in 1996
Olivier Chaline's La France au XVIIIe siècle, 1715-1787 appears in the same series as the Descimon-Jouhaud manuel I review on this site. I suspect that the level of fact is higher in this volume than in the one previously described, and it is possible that the personalities and facts may be more familiar to students. There is irony here for the more mature reader, and studied naïveté for the beginner. There is considerable attention to the general economic, social, demographic and even family structure, to accompany a careful summary of the fracturing state that was the French Monarchy under Louis XV. Both manuels present strong, fresh analyses of the influence of printing on both politics and culture, with Richelieu's programs varying less than one might expect from that of the Lumières. On the role of public opinion, after noting that it certainly existed in the early 17th century, Chaline remarks: "Ce qui est neuf, c'est son exaltation sous la forme d'un tribunal infaillible et quasi divin, établi au détriment de l'authorité monarchique défaillante" (p. 119). These manuels could serve very well a graduate student preparing field examinations!