Feudalism, venality, and revolution

Provincial assemblies in late-Old Regime France

By Stephen Miller

Feudalism, venality, and revolution


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: eBook
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-4836-0
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Published Date: October 2020
  • BIC Category: France, History, Early Modern History, The French Revolution, Humanities / Social & cultural history, Humanities / Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900, French Revolution, Social & cultural history, Later 18th century c 1750 to c 1799, European history, HISTORY / Social History, HISTORY / Modern / 18th Century, HISTORY / Revolutionary, HISTORY / Europe / France
  • Series: Studies in Early Modern European History


According to Alexis de Tocqueville's influential work on the Old Regime and the French Revolution, royal centralisation had so weakened the feudal power of the nobles that their remaining privileges became glaringly intolerable to commoners. This book challenges the theory by showing that when Louis XVI convened assemblies of landowners in the late 1770s and 1780s to discuss policies needed to resolve the budgetary crisis, he faced widespread opposition from lords and office holders. These elites regarded the assemblies as a challenge to their hereditary power over commoners. The king's government comprised seigneurial jurisdictions and venal offices. Lordships and offices upheld inequality on behalf of the nobility and bred the discontent motivating the people to make the French Revolution.


1 The king's entourage and public clashes over provincial assemblies
2 The emergence of anti-noble politics and the provincial assembly of Berry
3 Bourgeois liberalism and revolutionary politics: the provincial assembly of Lyonnais
4 Poitou and the question of feudalism from the Old Regime to revolution and counterrevolution
5 Provincial assemblies and the revolutionary challenge to patrimonialism
6 Village elections and the development of liberal perspectives on government


Stephen Miller is Associate Professor of History at the University of Alabama at Birmingham

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