Privilege and the Politics of Taxation in Eighteenth-Century France: Liberté, Egalité, Fiscalité

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This book offers a lucid new interpretation of the Ancien Régime and the origins of the French Revolution. It examines what was arguably the most ambitious project of the eighteenth-century French monarchy: the attempt to impose direct taxes on formerly tax-exempt privileged elites. Drawing on impressive archival research, Michael Kwass demonstrates that the levy of these taxes, which struck elites with some force, not only altered the relationship between monarchy and social hierarchy, but also transformed political language and attitudes; attitudes that ultimately led to revolution.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Richly documented and theoretically and methodologically sophisticated, Kwass's book will be requisite reading for anyone interested in the long-term political, social, and ideological origins of the French Revolution." American Historical Review

"...a significant contribution to our understanding of the politics of the Old Regime and its legacy to the Revolution." Journal of Modern History

"Kwass...examines the ambitious project of the 18th-century French monarchy to impose direct taxation on formerly tax-exempt privileged elites. He describes how the crown refashioned its institutions between monarchy and social hierarchy, but also transformed political language and attitudes in the decades before the French Revolution." Reference & Research Book News

" exceptionally readable and thorough work..." Choice

"...brief summary cannot do justice to the author's skillfully developed argument, which is butressed by abundant documentation drawn from a wide variety of archival and secondary sources. Cambridge University Press has enhanced the text by including illustrations and charts as well as an extensive index...Privilege and the Politics of Taxation in Eighteenth-Century France contributes substantially to our understanding of why and how the French Revolution happened." The Historian

"...a compelling study of the ways in which tax reform undermined the old regime and helped to create the republican political culture of the Revolution." H-FRANCE

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521771498
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2012
  • Pages: 372
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Table of Contents

List of illustrations; List of figures; List of tables; Acknowledgements; List of abbreviations; Introduction: why taxes?; Part I. Reassessing Privilege: 1. The economy of privilege and the challenge of universal taxation; 2. A kingdom of taxpayers; Part II. The Politics of Taxation and the Language of Dispute: 3. Petitioning for 'justice': tax disputes in the administrative sphere; 4. Taking 'liberty' to the public: tax disputes in the institutional sphere; 5. Taxation, Enlightenment and the printed word: debate in the literary sphere; Part III. From Resistance to Revolution: 6. Turning taxpayers into citizens: reform, revolution and the birth of modern political representation; Conclusion: liberté, égalité, fiscalité; Select bibliography; Index.

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