A magisterial history of French society between the end of the middle ages and the Revolution by one of the world's leading authorities on early modern France. Using colorful examples and incorporating the latest scholarship, William Beik conveys the distinctiveness of early modern society and identifies the cultural practices that defined the lives of people at all levels of society. Painting a vivid picture of the realities of everyday life, he reveals how society functioned and how the different classes interacted. In addition to chapters on nobles, peasants, city people, and the court, the book sheds new light on the Catholic church, the army, popular protest, the culture of violence, gendered relations, and sociability. This is a major new work that restores the ancien regime as a key epoch in its own right and not simply as the prelude to the coming Revolution.
William Beik is Emeritus Professor of History at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. His previous publications include Urban Protest in Seventeenth-Century France: The Culture of Retribution (1997) and Louis XIV and Absolutism: A Study with Documents (2000).
Introduction: France and its population; 1. Rural communities and seigneurial power; 2. Peasant life, agriculture, and social distribution; 3. Domination by the nobility; 4. City life and city people; 5. The monarchy and the new nobility; 6. Ecclesiastical power and religious faith; 7. Warfare and society; 8. Social bonds and social protests; 9. Traditional attitudes and identities; 10. Emerging identities - education and the new elite; 11. Monarchs and courtly society; 12. Aristocracy's last bloom and the forces of change; A brief synopsis of early modern French history; Genealogy of the kings of France.