The Seven Years War and the Old Regime in France

The Seven Years War and the Old Regime in France: The Economic and Financial Toll

JAMES C. RILEY
Copyright Date: 1986
Pages: 280
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zvm9q
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  • Book Info
    The Seven Years War and the Old Regime in France
    Book Description:

    Taking French participation in the Seven Years War as a case study, this book examines the effects of war on the economy and on government finance, finding that the economic toll has usually been exaggerated and the financial toll seriously underestimated.

    Originally published in 1987.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5825-5
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF TABLES
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. LIST OF CHARTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xv-2)
    James C. Riley
  6. CHAPTER 1 ECONOMIC GROWTH AT RISK
    (pp. 3-37)

    Waris a gamble. But for those in the old regime who decided whether or not to take this gamble—kings and oligarchs—the risk was attractive. Visible gains in territory, prestige, power, and economic advantage seemed to outweigh probable losses: war, along with marriage alliances, was the classical path toward state building. The ruler who went to war with the distressing frequency typical in the eighteenth century, however, knew much about probable costs. War meant the depletion of military and naval resources and supplies, vast and wasteful spending on campaigns, the accumulation of debts, and political tensions arising from...

  7. CHAPTER 2 FRENCH FINANCES ON THE EVE OF WAR
    (pp. 38-71)

    Inthe eighteenth century in Europe one power possessed more aggregate financial and economic resources than any other, enough more to create the idea of dominance but not enough more to bring this idea into reality. “La France est sans contredit de tous les Royaumes celui qui peut Ie plus contribuer à la richesse du Prince et des Peuples. . . .”² If France could better afford to fight wars, it still could not afford to fight as often or as vigorously as it did. This is so not because the people and the economy were oppressed by taxes, but...

  8. CHAPTER 3 THE SEVEN YEARS WAR
    (pp. 72-103)

    Europeanwarfare was brought under control during the reign of Louis XIV.² The monarch who by his own admission loved war too much, who fought so many wars that his death in 1715 met rejoicing more or less equivalent to that which greeted the “miracle” of his birth in 1638, this monarch tamed war. The achievement may be assigned to Louis XIV and his ministers rather than to the times in general because of the single-mindedness with which Louis engaged in wars. A man given to occasional spiritual anxiety, Louis nevertheless did not let religion interfere with his decision to...

  9. CHAPTER 4 THE SEVEN YEARS WAR AND THE FRENCH ECONOMY
    (pp. 104-131)

    Historianshave 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 Carrière, 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.

    “Au XVIIIesiècle, une Europe sans rivages a développé ses...

  10. CHAPTER 5 FINANCING THE WAR
    (pp. 132-161)

    Anirony charges the history of the old regime. War was the chief business of government in that time. Yet revenues were inadequate to pay for this chief business. They were enough to pay for peace, which in the eighteenth century included the cost of the peacetime army and navy. And most of the time, up to 1756 at least, they were enough to pay also for the accumulating costs of prior wars, which took the form of debts. But they were not enough to pay for a continuing succession of new wars. The irony is that states which made war...

  11. CHAPTER 6 THE DEBT
    (pp. 162-191)

    Conventionaljudgments about the defects in the finances of old regime France need to be modified. The heart of the problem lay not with the defects customarily identified: the inefficiency and costliness of the tax system (a motor for the greed of thetraitant), or tax avoidance linked to a social hierarchy founded on privilege (a motor for social ambition in general). Nor did it lie, as Michel Morineau has argued, with war.² Of course it is true that inefficiency, privilege, and a taste for war were major problems. But these characteristics stood at the heart of this government and...

  12. CHAPTER 7 A CRISIS OF CONFIDENCE
    (pp. 192-222)

    Tolose the war and win the peace (as English critics of Lord Bute’s peace terms saw matters) was not to assuage a sense that much was badly wrong in France in 1763. What distinguishes this sense of misgiving from earlier criticisms of French institutions is its intensity and breadth at a time when many feared that all was lost, that France was “reduit à la dernière extrémité par les dépenses forcées qu’il a faites pour soutenir une guerre aussi malheureuse que longue.”² In December 1760 Mirabeau, whose aim inThéorie de l’impôtwas to proclaim the natural laws governing...

  13. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 223-236)

    In 1755 France embarked on another war. It was an uncommon example of a commonplace activity, for in the terms counted most dear in the old regime, the Seven Years War cost the monarchy much. France lost large blocks of territory and even more prestige. Its armies in Germany, in alliance with Austria and Russia and with a combined population of some 70 million behind them, failed to defeat the armies of Prussia, which drew sustenance from a populace of some 3.5 million. Its navy failed to slip away from the British in order to assist in the first of...

  14. APPENDIX 1: ESTIMATING THE PRICE TREND IN FRENCH TRADE
    (pp. 237-240)
  15. APPENDIX 2: CALCULATING THE PRINCIPAL OF LIFE ANNUITY LOANS
    (pp. 241-242)
  16. LIST OF MANUSCRIPT SOURCES CITED
    (pp. 243-248)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 249-256)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 257-257)