ABSTRACT

As a result of the work of Dickson, Brewer and others, our understanding of the nature and development of the British state has been enormously enriched, and the topic remains the subject of significant scholarly attention. Yet one problem with the concept of the fiscal-military state lies in its genesis, in that it was based on a study of Britain. One of the features of British history is its peculiarities. In the same way that the search for the origins of the Industrial Revolution has shown that there were many paths to economic modernization,7 so too any study of the fiscal-military state in the European context is likely to emphasize both the diversity of state responses to common problems based on their individual circumstances, traditions and aspirations, together with the uneven and often unpredictable results. Nothing illustrates this better than the case of France which is the subject of this chapter. Our purpose in what follows is not to take issue with the concept of the fiscal-military state, but rather to explain the changing fortunes of France in its long eighteenth century which stretched from 1661 (the start of Louis XIV’s personal rule) to 1815 (the defeat of Napoleonic France). However, France’s record in the wars of her long eighteenth-century is a chequered one, so any explanation must be a complex one since it needs to make sense of the greatness of France under the Sun King, the challenges faced by the monarchy in the eighteenth century, the collapse of the ancien régime in 1789 and the re-emergence of France in the 1790s as the dominant military power within Europe.