The Bakers of Paris and the Bread Question, 1700-1775

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In preindustrial Europe, dependence on grain shaped every phase of life from economic development to spiritual expression, and the problem of subsistence dominated the everyday order of things in a merciless and unremitting way. Steven Laurence Kaplan’s The Bakers of Paris and the Bread Question, 1700–1775 focuses on the production and distribution of France’s most important commodity in the sprawling urban center of eighteenth-century Paris where provisioning needs were most acutely felt and most difficult to satisfy. Kaplan shows how the relentless demand for bread constructed the pattern of daily life in Paris as decisively and subtly as elaborate protocol governed the social life at Versailles.
Despite the overpowering salience of bread in public and private life, Kaplan’s is the first inquiry into the ways bread exercised its vast and significant empire. Bread framed dreams as well as nightmares. It was the staff of life, the medium of communion, a topic of common discourse, and a mark of tradition as well as transcendence. In his exploration of bread’s materiality and cultural meaning, Kaplan looks at bread’s fashioning of identity and examines the conditions of supply and demand in the marketplace. He also sets forth a complete history of the bakers and their guild, and unmasks the methods used by the authorities in their efforts to regulate trade.
Because the bakers and their bread were central to Parisian daily life, Kaplan’s study is also a comprehensive meditation on an entire society, its government, and its capacity to endure. Long-awaited by French history scholars, The Bakers of Paris and the Bread Question, 1700–1775 is a landmark in eighteenth-century historiography, a book that deeply contextualizes, and thus enriches our understanding of one of the most important eras in European history.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A landmark in eighteenth-century historiography. The verve and clarity of Kaplan’s writing are marvelous. The completeness of the project is admirable; every kind of archival material that might have shed light on the subject has been systematically scoured.”—William M. Reddy, Duke University
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822317067
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books
  • Publication date: 6/28/1996
  • Pages: 784
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.51 (h) x 2.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Steven Laurence Kaplan is Goldwin Smith Professor of European History at Cornell University.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Introduction 1
I Bread: Demand and Supply 21
1 Breadways 23
2 Bread Making 61
3 Baker Shops and Bread Markets 81
4 The Forain World 116
5 Bread on Credit 137
II Bakers: Social Structure and Life Cycle 153
6 The Guild 155
7 From Apprentice to Journeyman 192
8 At Work 227
9 The Journeyman's World outside the Shop 250
10 Establishment 271
11 Marriage Strategies and Family Life 302
12 Fortune 337
13 Bakers as Debtors 377
14 Failure 400
15 Reputation 423
III Police of Bread and Bakers 437
16 Primer to Policing: Figuring Supply and Consumption 439
17 The Police of Bakers 458
18 Setting the Price of Bread 493
19 Policing the Price of Bread, 1725-1780 521
Conclusion 567
Appendixes 581
Notes 591
Bibliography 717
Index 745
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