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Michael Kwass
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Louis Mandrin led a gang of bandits who brazenly smuggled contraband into eighteenth-century France. Michael Kwass brings new life to the legend of this Gallic Robin Hood, exposing the dark side of early modern globalization. Decades later, the memory of Mandrin inspired ordinary subjects and Enlightened philosophers alike to challenge royal power.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-36963-4
    Subjects: History, Economics, Business, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-14)

    A high-ranking customs official stationed in a remote frontier town agrees to meet a trafficker from across the border. The smuggler, one of countless men, women, and children who run an illegal psychoactive substance from their impoverished country into the richest and most powerful nation in the hemisphere, has intimated through a third party that he is prepared to cut a deal: in exchange for a new life and clean conscience, he will rat out his boss, a notorious underworld kingpin the police have been tracking for months. Eager to take down the leader of a violent criminal gang, the...

  5. 1 The Globalization of European Consumption
    (pp. 15-40)

    The year: 1745. carterʹs grove, virginia. Marcellus toils in a low-lying field on the banks of the James River. Captured in West Africa, shipped across the Atlantic, and purchased by a wealthy colonial planter, he and some twenty other slaves labor ceaselessly to cultivate tobacco. Under the watchful eye of an overseer whose salary rises and falls with the harvest, they clear land, prepare seedbeds, transplant seedlings, weed, prune, and reap, producing thousands of pounds of sweetly scented leaf each year. The product of their grueling labor is packed into large wooden hogsheads that are wedged into ships and sailed...

  6. 2 The King Intervenes
    (pp. 41-69)

    The globalization of Western European consumption from 1650 to 1800 did not take place in a political vacuum. On the contrary, during the very same period in which trade globalized and consumption surged, the European ʺfiscal-military stateʺ was born—an awesome beast that could tax and borrow on an unprecedented scale to field mighty armies on the continent or deploy blue-water navies around the world.¹ Fiscal-military states fundamentally shaped the global commerce that was transforming consumption. Projecting fierce European rivalries onto the larger world, bellicose rulers competed for access to, and control of, transcontinental flows of valuable colonial goods. They...

  7. 3 The Making of a Smuggler
    (pp. 70-86)

    From the summer of 1754 to the spring of 1755, Louis Mandrin organized a series of outrageously daring smuggling expeditions that would make him the most famous criminal of his day. Although little is known about the formative years of his career, we catch an early glimpse of him on an August evening in 1753 strolling across the border from France into Savoy, the southern tip of the contraband corridor that stretched up to the North Sea. No description of what he looked like that summer evening exists, but police bulletins issued little more than a year later described him...

  8. 4 The Shadow Economy
    (pp. 87-116)

    Mandrin inhabited a vast underworld of smuggling. The yawning gap between the French monarchyʹs far-reaching claims to tax, monopolize, and prohibit the flow of consumer goods and its limited ability to enforce those claims resulted in the growth of a sprawling shadow economy.¹ In the eighteenth century, over a million men, women, and children from all walks of life worked in this parallel economic universe: nobles and clergy wheeled and dealed behind the scenes, merchants provisioned traffickers beyond the border, peasants funneled contraband across the frontier into towns, and urban dealers hawked illicit wares in bars, cafés, and rented rooms.²...

  9. 5 Rebel Rebel
    (pp. 117-138)

    From his lair in Savoy, Louis Mandrin tapped into the great reservoir of contraband that stretched up to the North Sea and sprang into action in the summer of 1754. With a band of mounted comrades, he rode hundreds of miles across the rough terrain of southeastern France on his first major expeditions. From the pine-scented Jura Mountains of Franche-Comté in the north to the volcanic Massif Central of Auvergne in the west to the rocky plateaux of Languedoc in the south, he delivered thousands of pounds of illicit tobacco and calico to eager consumers. Even more impressive than the...

  10. 6 Triumph
    (pp. 139-162)

    Of a wholly different order than his earlier ventures, Mandrinʹs expedition of October 1754 was larger than life. Dramatically expanding the scope of his operation, he tripled the size of his band, attacked major cities (including three provincial capitals), and sold prodigious quantities of contraband over the course of a single 600-mile run. The grand scale of the campaign certainly impressed local officials. ʺWhat do you think now, Monsieur, of our smugglersʹ war?ʺ the vicar general of Valence asked the intendant of Auvergne. ʺWe nearly laughed at their first undertakings, but this last eruption is not to be scoffed at.”¹...

  11. 7 The Would-Be General
    (pp. 163-196)

    In december 1754, after a few weeks of respite in Savoy and Switzerland, Mandrin launched what would be his final expedition into France. In October, French authorities had been caught off guard, allowing him to sweep through the southeast, but they now mustered the full weight of a modernizing state against him: city militias manned ramparts, the mounted constabulary patrolled roads, rising numbers of Farm brigades readied for battle, and a novel force on the scene, the royal army, prepared to give chase. Mandrin confronted an entirely new level of resistance, which he met with increasingly violent countermeasures. Indeed, whatever...

  12. 8 Captured
    (pp. 197-216)

    After the bloody expedition of December 1754, a stalemate ensued along the French-Savoyard border. Through the winter and spring of 1755, French authorities and Savoyard smugglers eyed each other across the Guiers, tracking each otherʹs movements and facing off in sporadic skirmishes. Every verbal assault, fistfight, and gunshot excited a diplomatic set-to between Versailles and Turin. The tense standoff would simmer until April when the assassination of a high-ranking Farm agent excited fears among French officials that traitorous smugglers, rebellious Protestants, and belligerent Britons were forging a military alliance that posed an imminent threat to the realmʹs security. In response,...

  13. 9 The Execution of Louis Mandrin
    (pp. 217-251)

    The commission of Valence, into whose custody Mandrin was placed, was the most fearsome court in all of France. Smugglers cursed its very name. Magistrates in venerable superior courts condemned it as an oppressive ʺtribunal of blood.ʺ Voltaire ranked it with the Black Death and the Inquisition as one of the worst plagues ever to strike humanity. The flagship of a new fleet of antitrafficking tribunals, it was to judge the most famous smuggler in all of Europe.

    The growth of illicit trade in the eighteenth century prompted significant institutional changes in the French monarchical state. As we have seen,...

  14. 10 Mandrin into Print
    (pp. 252-284)

    Very little was written about Mandrin before his death. Songsters scribbled ditties on scraps of paper, the literati noted thoughts in diaries, and royal officials feverishly corresponded, but no one save the editors of a few foreign newspapers actually published on Mandrin. All that changed with his execution. Mandrinʹs death set off an explosion in print as biographers and playwrights recounted his life story, engravers illustrated his most famous exploits, and songwriters and poets rhymed verse to eulogize his passing. In an age when the concept of celebrity itself was emerging, thanks to the growth of cities, the expansion of...

  15. 11 Smuggling in the Enlightenment
    (pp. 285-317)

    On an evening in 1764, the distinguished magistrate Chrétien Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes, former director of the Royal Publishing Office and sitting president of the highest tax court in the realm, hosted a dinner party for several luminaries of the French Enlightenment. At the table sat André Morellet, liberal economist and philosopher; Jacques Turgot, intendant of Limoges, friend of the Physiocrats, and future finance minister; and Jean le Rond dʹAlembert, mathematician, member of the prestigious Académie française, and cofounder of theEncyclopédie, that great compendium of Enlightenment knowledge. As they dined, Malesherbes recounted how he had come into possession...

  16. 12 Revolution
    (pp. 318-353)

    In 2005–2006, perched on a crag overlooking the alpine city of Grenoble, the Musée Dauphinois mounted a splendid exhibition on its native son, Louis Mandrin. Although curators carefully situated the smuggler in historical perspective, differentiating between life and legend, viewers of the exhibition had their own ideas about Mandrin, which they enthusiastically expressed in hundreds of comments, drawings, and calls to action scribbled in spiral notebooks placed at the end of the exhibition. Museumgoers from the extreme right of the political spectrum either dismissed Mandrin as just anotherdealer de shit(ʺdrug dealerʺ) or wished for the return of...

  17. Conclusion
    (pp. 354-366)

    Wrapped inside the large canvas bags that Mandrinʹs gang transported were two goods—tobacco and calico—which, with a number of other global commodities, bolstered the growth of European consumption in the eighteenth century. From Asia came not only brilliant cotton calico but blue and white porcelain, shiny lacquerware, and aromatic tea, as well as the pungent spices and fine silks that had been flowing west for centuries. Another basket of delectable products arrived from the Americas: tobacco, of course, but also sugar, coffee, and chocolate, psychoactive substances that, like tea, enlivened the mind, encouraged socializing, and kept workers on...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 367-446)
  19. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 447-448)
  20. Index
    (pp. 449-457)