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Peasants and King in Burgundy: Agrarian Foundations of French Absolutism (California Series on Social Choice and Political Economy) Paperback – December 4, 1992

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"For anyone interested in European state-building, capitalist development, or the background to the French Revolution, this book is must reading."--Jack A. Goldstone, "Contemporary Sociology

About the Author

Hilton L. Root is Bers Professor of Social Science at the University of Pennsylvania.
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Product Details

  • Series: California Series on Social Choice and Political Economy (Book 9)
  • Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (December 4, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520080971
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520080973
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,124,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
The thing about this book is that it's an exquisite example of clear, precise and economical writing (unlike this review). Each sentence is necessary, advancing or supporting the main arguments of the book; it never wanders or belabors. In fact, it is so carefully crafted that it became distracting: I would stop and reread a passage several times just to marvel at the writing, no lie. What's it about? Well, I'm no expert in French history, but Hilton Root (Social science, Univ. of Pennsylvania) undermines prevailing ideological interpretations of the Ancien Regime (i.e., that the state was a tool of the capitalist class, that communal peasant institutions, representing a precapitalist resistance, were the target of this state-bourgeois combination, or that the state was an agent of modernization). His main point is that the state (the Crown government established by Louis XIV) was an independent actor, looking out for its own interests, which very often coincided with those of the peasant villages. In fact, because these villages were the fiscal bedrock of the Crown, the central government's provincial bureaucrats (the intendants) sought to actually preserve and strengthen the communal prerogatives of the peasantry. He also shows that these communal institutions were not always egalitarian in their effects, and were not necessarily antithetical to the operation of the market. As I said, the author admirably presents his thesis and evidence, most of which is based on a detailed reading of the legal documents and correspondence of Burgundy in the period 1661-1793. [How's that for a bookworm's gig? Hanging out in the wine country, poking through the archives--I think I could be up for that.Read more ›
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