By Peter McPhee

This quantity presents an authoritative synthesis of contemporary paintings at the social historical past of France and is now completely revised and up-to-date to hide the 'long 19th century' from 1789-1914. Peter McPhee bargains either a readable narrative and a particular, coherent argument approximately this century. McPhee explores issues resembling peasant interplay with the surroundings, the altering adventure of labor and relaxation, the character of crime and protest, altering demographic styles and relatives constitution, the spiritual practices of employees and peasants, and the ideology and inner repercussions of colonisation.

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Well before 1789, the language of ‘citizen’, ‘nation’, ‘social contract’ and ‘general will’ was articulated across French society, clashing with an older discourse of ‘orders’, ‘estates’ and ‘corporations’. The same complex relationship between reading public and writer existed in the art world, exemplified in the public reception, if not in the intention, of David’s ‘Oath of the Horatii’ in 1785, with its celebration of civic behaviour perceived as virtuous. The author of Sur la peinture (1782) attacked conventional painting and the decadence of the social élite, exhorting art critics to engage ‘considerations which are moral and political in character’.

This ‘furrowed and hardened’ woman claimed (in words Young underlined in his journal): ‘something was to be done by some great folks for such poor ones, but she did not know who or how, but God send us better, because the taxes and dues are crushing us’. Fear of aristocratic revenge replaced such hope as news of the Bastille arrived: were bands of beggars roaming through ripening corn in the pay of vengeful seigneurs, or were they ‘brigands’ fleeing Paris? Hope, fear and hunger made the countryside a tinderbox ignited by glimpses of suspicious strangers.

A sample of 1,112 of the cahiers, 748 of them from village communities, has been the subject of quantitative analysis by John Markoff and Gilbert Shapiro. Their analysis demonstrates that peasants were far more concerned in 1789 with material rather than symbolic burdens, that they largely ignored the trappings of seigneurial status which weighed little in material terms, such as the public display of arms and reserved pews in churches. Inevitably, the composite cahiers drawn up by urban bourgeois at the district (bailliage) level excised many rural grievances deemed too parochial; nevertheless, 64 per cent of the 666 cahiers at this level across France called for the abolition of seigneurial dues.

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A Social History of France, 1789-1914 by Peter McPhee
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