Lawyers and Citizens: The Making of a Political Elite in Old Regime France / Edition 1

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Overview

David Bell's new book traces the development of the French legal profession between the reign of Louis XIV and the French Revolution, showing how lawyers influenced, and were influenced by, the period's passionate political and religious conflicts. Bell analyzes how these key "middling" figures in French society were transformed from the institutional technicians of absolute monarchy into the self-appointed "voices of public opinion," and leaders of opposition political journalism. He describes the birth of an independent legal profession in the late seventeenth century, its alienation from the monarchy under the pressure of religious disputes in the early eighteenth century, and its transformation into a standard-bearer of "enlightened" opinion in the decades before the Revolution. His work illuminates the workings of politics under a theoretically absolute monarchy, and the importance of long-standing constitutional debates for the ideological origins of the Revolution. It also sheds new light on the development of the modern professions, and of the middle classes in France.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[V]ery worthwhile study. Its scholarship is impeccable, and the author's command of the literature is most impressive...the range of the major questions involved, as well as of the story provided, makes this work extremely valuable and significant."—Journal of Social History

"This book is a significant contribution to the field of eighteenth-century French history and is solidly based on extensive reading of manuscript and printed sources. The historical profession has been in need of a book on this subject for many years. Given the prominence of lawyers in the revolution of 1789, the professional experience from which they emerged will be a topic of wide interest."—Philip Dawson, Brooklyn College

"This is an important book. The arguments are fresh, the evidence rich, and the writing smooth and lively. The narrative is essential to the analysis. Bell is continually posing questions, and nothing in this superb book is ever irrelevant."—David D. Bien, University of Michigan

"The principle merit of Bell's arresting and richly researched book is to show how Parisian barristers opened up a peculiar and precociously political 'public space' close to the center of Bourbon absolutism during the decades straddling the end of Louis XIV's reign and the beginning of the Orléans regency. Implicitly challenging Jürgen Habermas's influential thesis that modern 'public opinion' expressed itself in art and literature before doing so in politics, Bell's book stands that argument on its head, importantly redirecting discussion about how and when public opinion began to displace the king's 'certain science and plenitude of power' in eighteenth-century France. Arguing its case with evidence drawn from institutional, political, and intellectual history, this a superb exercise in all of these genres, as well as an important contribution to the ongoing debate about the ideological origins of the French Revolution."—Dale Van Kley, Calvin College

"Bell marshals an impressive body of research in sources little used until recently...Bell's brief and clearly written study traces well the development of the Parisian Order of Barristers."—Law and History Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195076707
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/28/1994
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Lexile: 1650L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Yale University
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Table of Contents

Introduction 3
1 The World of the Law 21
2 Building an Independent Profession 41
3 "A Sort of Absolutely Independent Little Republic at the Center of the State" 67
4 The Seminary of Publicists 105
5 The Profession Transformed 129
6 The Vanguard of Reform 164
Conclusion 195
Notes 217
Bibliographical Note 271
Index 273
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