Paris from the 1680s to 1791 was a place and time of intense political debate and social unrest over issues of subsistence. The shortage of grain and the sudden rise in bread prices sparked the fires of urban protest and drew immediate responses from monarchs and statesmen. For several decades, historians have focused their studies on the grain trade that dominated French agriculture and whose surplus generated national wealth. Until recently, there have been few studies of butchers who traded in beef, veal, and mutton, as most historians regarded their trade as marginal to royal food policy, and-because of meat's relative luxury-not the object of popular discontent. Paris experienced a marked increase in the production and consumption of meat during this century. Both the greater demand for meat and the efforts of political leaders to ensure its consistent supply occurred against the backdrop of a transformation in Parisian society and politics, especially the Parisians' changing expectations regarding political leadership as onetime subjects became citizens. In this book, Watts examines why meat mattered to a growing number of Parisians and explores the political, economic, and cultural matters of the meat trade in order to illuminate more fully the changing world of Old Regime Paris. This study goes beyond the mechanics of production, distribution, and marketing of meat to include social institutions such as the guild, the family firm, and the political environment, as well as the culture's attitude toward flesh, blood, and violence that shaped the role of butchers in Parisian life. Sydney Watts is assistant professor of history at the University of Richmond. She is currently working on the history of Lent and secular society in early modern France.
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