A History of Sixteenth-Century France, 1483–1598: by Janine Garrisson

By Janine Garrisson

A masterful new survey of sixteenth-century France which examines the vicissitudes of the French monarchy in the course of the Italian Wars and the Wars of faith. It explores how the advances made below a succession of sturdy kings from Charles VIII to Henri II created tensions in conventional society which mixed with financial difficulties and rising non secular divisions to convey the dominion with reference to disintegration lower than a chain of susceptible kings from Francois II to Henri III. The political problem culminated in France's first succession clash for hundreds of years, yet was once resolved via Henri IV's well timed reconnection of dynastic legitimism with spiritual orthodoxy.

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Woodland, moorland, and waste land were taken from the impoverished communities by seizure, trickery, or purchase, thus depriving the poor and not-so-poor peasants of a traditional supplement to their resources. Thus the peasant world, which had been relatively stable from 1480 to 1520, disintegrated. The rise of a new class of landless labourers marked the break with the old system. These men worked on the great estates or else hired their labour to sharecroppers for seasonal employment in sowing, haymaking, harvesting, or grapepicking.

In the 1560s tithe revolts accompanied the advance of the Reformation. In 1579-80 the Dauphine was swept by a peasant rising in which the 'Carnival at Romans' was but one of several tragic episodes. 1590 saw the rising of the 'Gauthiers' of Perche and the Norman Bocage, while in 1592 the people of the plains of Comminges combined in the league of the 'campaneres' (or 'countrymen'). And in 1594-5 rebellion swept across a vast area of Quercy, Marche, the Agenais, and Saintonge, a region which in the following century was to see many further such explosions on a local or regional scale.

2 The price inflation experienced in France as elsewhere during the sixteenth century was an incentive to entrepreneurs and indeed to all those with something to sell. The inhabitants of the towns profited to varying degrees from this intense economic activity. Craft industry was always the main form of urban economic activity. The master-craftsman sold his products, be they necessities or luxuries, from the workshop in which they were made. Working with a number of apprentices and journeymen, who often formed part of his household, he would probably be a member of some trade guild (although, despite the best efforts of Louis XI, this was far from always the case).

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