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 through the Italian Wars and the Wars of faith. It explores how the advances made lower than a succession of robust kings from Charles VIII to Henri II created tensions in conventional society which mixed with fiscal difficulties and rising spiritual divisions to carry the dominion as regards to disintegration below a chain of susceptible kings from Francois II to Henri III. The political situation culminated in France's first succession clash for hundreds of years, yet used to be resolved via Henri IV's well timed reconnection of dynastic legitimism with spiritual orthodoxy.

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Sample text

Gilles Caster has shown how the Toulousan woad-magnates, Jean Bernuy, Pierre d'Assezat andjean Cheverry, who organised production from sowing to sale, encountered financial problems which only the flexibility of letters of credit could resolve. Lyon - which, thanks to Louis XI, had replaced Geneva as the hub of the Rhine-Rhone trading axis - established an indisputable French supremacy in this area. At its annual fairs, the market in financial paper was so perfectly oiled that it scarcely developed any further throughout the entire Ancien Regime.

The term is by no means univocal. There were big differences between a woad-magnate in Toulouse, a banker in Lyon, and a Norman entrepreneur like Jean Ango. Yet as a group they represent a new kind of man, one whose 'bold temperament was equal to the risks of business and of life'. They were the aristocracy of commerce. France may not have had its Fuggers or Welsers, those German capitalists who were bankers to princes, but there were still some astonishing success stories. Richard Gascon maintains nevertheless that the great French export trade to Italy, Spain and the Mediterranean was dominated by foreigners, who profited from taking to their home countries the products brought together by French merchants.

They would be retailed anywhere within a radius of 20 kilometres from the town where they arrived wholesale. The customers were found at all social levels, from the peasant in search of seedcorn to the gentleman after a pair of spurs. Nor did this kind of trade exhaust the energies of men who can best be compared to those who kept 'general stores' in the old West, or to those Chinese merchants found throughout South-East Asia and even in Mrica. They lent money to nobles, clergy, and farmers. To farmers they might also lend corn for sowing or consumption.

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