Rafe Blaufarb examines the interwoven problems of taxation and social privilege in this treatment of the contention over fiscal privilege between the seigneurial nobility and the taxpayers of Provence. From the 1530s until the French Revolution and beyond, a series of deceptively simple questions divided privileged from non-privileged elite's in the province: what made land noble and, hence, tax exempt; how could land acquire or lose noble status? Aired in tribunals ranging from local village courts to the royal council in Versailles, these questions fuelled a long-running dispute that shaped the political life of early modern Provence, planted the seeds of revolutionary social conflict, and influenced provincial politics into the nineteenth century. This book sheds new light on two major fields of scholarly enquiry- early modern state-formation and revolutionary origins-and suggests a new explanation for the rise and fall of French absolutism. By fostering conflict between different kinds of local elite's, taxation not only undermined provincial cohesion and invited the intervention of royal authority but also helped to generate the salient social antagonisms of 1789. Although the book treats only a single province, its long-term chronology and broad source base ranging from village archives to the records of the central state provide a more holistic view of early modern French history than shorter-term, Paris-centred studies.