-Cultural history in France lead to the development of semiotics (everything in culture is a symbol of
-Symbolism behind the presentation of a product (in advertising)
-Enlightenment (18th c.), existentialism (20th c.)
-Ways of life, how aristocrats interact socially, middle class (bourgeois), representations of class and
-How the French think about themselves and history.
-In 1750, France was the most populace country in Europe.
-Population increased explosively in the next 50 years. Large population combined with its geographic
location ensured France was one of the great military powers of Europe.
-By the 18th century, Britain and Germany (Hapsburg Empire) were afraid that France was going to
dominate Europe politically.
-Paris was the largest city in France.
-France was very active in commerce in the 18th century.
-In 1750 France was predominantly an agricultural economy.
-Every 10 years, massive crop failure in France.
-Crop failure contributed to French Revolution of 1789.
-In 1750, French society was no longer feudal, but it was not yet industrial or capitalist. It was neither
medieval or modern.
-There was a large middle class made up of professionals and artisans in between the nobility and the
-Social classes in 18th century France were not closed social classes. Wealthy members of the upper
middle class could easily enter the aristocracy by buying titles or marrying into the aristocracy. This was
-Nobles owned about 25% of the land, peasants owned 35% of the land, and the middle group owned
-In 1750 1/3 of the population was literate.
-Public opinion emerged in this period.
-In 1750, France was a well populated, wealthy country, that was increasing in its wealth and
population. Social structure was changing.
-Hierarchies were becoming less rigid.
-Politically, 18th century France was a monarchy. Since the reign of Louis the 14th, this French monarchy
was called an “absolute monarch”. Monarch ran by divine law.
-Political organization was decentralized, regional nobility ruled in the centuries prior to the monarchy.
The great nobility took away from these independent towns and created one overlordship.
-Louis would have presented himself in an extravagant and overwhelming way.
-Louis the 14th was called the sun king. Strategy of absolute monarchy was defeat militarily, win over
culturally, and control with a hierarchy.
-Louis the 15th was hailed as the well beloved. 50 years later, at his funeral, the people yelled “good
-France during this period was referred to as the “old regime”.
-Key problem of the French monarchy was that the monarchy was not able to afford the things that
made it so great.
-In return for surrendering its political authority, the nobility was exempt from most taxes.
-Most of the income came from the sale of royal offices. To raise money, the crown would sell someone
the right to collect taxes in an area. That person who had that right would own that area as property.
-The debt of the monarchy rose steadily after Louis the 14th.
-The French monarchy was spending more than it could possibly afford or raise given its tax system.
-One thing that was characteristic of the 18th century economy was that the economy was decentralized
so that there were trade barriers between the different regions of France. Made for very inefficient
trade within the country.
-France lost a lot of prestige in the 7 years war, gained a lot of debt.
-Maupeou (minister) tried to abolish the obstructions of the nobility. He recognized that they need to
reform the law courts controlled by the nobility (called parliaments).
-The nobility turned the public against the King.
-In 1774, with the death of Louis 15th, Louis 16th fired Maupeou.
-Louis 16th had to compel his own reforming philosopher (Turgot) who was the minister of finance. He
set out to cut back expenditures and to modernize the economy. As soon as these things were
implemented, every vested interest in France realized that it was being challenged and met turgot’s laws
with resistance. Constance rioting broke out, turgot was fired in 1776. His failure of reform marked the
end of strict absolutism.
-There would have to be a significant political change that would result in power sharing between
monarchy and nobility. Would have to give back some of the political power the monarchy took from
-The monarchy and the nobility had opposite interests politically and economically, but they held
common cultural beliefs.
-Aristocratic culture believed that a person was entirely defined by their social status.
-Character reflected social status.
-Character and status were to be displayed and expressed.
-Strong tendency towards display and spectacle.
-17th century, Louis 14th consolidated power. Elaborated aristocratic culture.
-Louis built the Palace of Versailles, with elaborate gardens and the famous hall of gold and mirrors. This
hall was meant to reflect his glory. Louis surrounded himself with elaborate rituals that nobles had to
-One of the most important venues was the opera. Not only for entertainment, but also to display
-We believe that concerts have an intellectual seriousness, that they are important and worthy of
-In the 18th century until the last decades of the century, opera and symphonies were different. They
were social occasions. The most important nobles would sit in the most prominent part of the theatre.
They would sit on the stage in boxes. People talked and visited each other throughout the performance.
-Public gatherings operated according to the principle of displaying social status in an extravagant
-Believed that nobles were devoted to the principle that one would always give others pleasure. The
ideal noble would always be gracious towards everyone, including their servants.
-Aristocratic culture sought to make life a gracious enjoyment.
-Aristocrats went to public venues, but there were also less spectacled gatherings in aristocratic
households and salons. They were occasions for conversation.
-Controversial topics would be avoided.
-Sometimes non-nobles were invited, prominent professionals who mingled with aristocrats. These
salons served as recruiting centers for the aristocracy.
-This culture of aristocracy was the dominant form of culture in 18th century France. Other social classes
such as the middle class began to adopt aristocratic manners.
-This wasn’t the only significant cultural development, there was also the French Enlightenment.
-The French Enlightenment got its inspiration from the developments of the 18th century. John Locke, Sir
Isaac Newton’s works considered foundation stones of the enlightenment. They reoriented European
philosophy and science.
-Philosophers of the time sought to define natural laws of society.
-Turgot wanted to define the natural law of a well-functioning economy. Believed in free trade.
-Rousseau wrote Emile, wondering what it would be like if a boy was raised based upon the principles of
nature, outside of society, if he would be naturally moral and virtuous.
-Empirical view of nature lead to atheism
-John Stuart mill declared that “we are the most progressive people that ever lived”
-Deism, philosophers believed in natural religion. Orthodox Christianity challenged this because it made
it seem that there was no need for Churches.
-Didero (philosopher) was censored for irreligiosity. His writings were burned and he was sent to prison
for some of his writings.
-Philosophs became more respected and moved from a position of being censored to those who
censored and held powerful positions.
-Philosoph defined as someone who is rational and scientific, but never overly academic. Philosophy
seeks to please with his knowledge. Thinking of the philosoph is similar to the world of the aristocrat.
-Most of the French Enlightenment is no longer taught except for Rousseau because it was too much
revolved around entertainment.
-French Enlightenment had much in common with the aristocratic culture in France.
-Belief in universal natural rights also lead to a belief in social equality and that since everyone has the
same basic human nature, they should have the same basic rights.
-Believed that laws should apply the same to all the classes.
-Frederick 2 of Prussia; Catherin 2 of Russia, Joseph 2 of Austria
Cultural history in france lead to the development of semiotics (everything in culture is a symbol of some kind) Symbolism behind the presentation of a product (in advertising) Ways of life, how aristocrats interact socially, middle class (bourgeois), representations of class and gender, identity. How the french think about themselves and history. In 1750, france was the most populace country in europe. Population increased explosively in the next 50 years. Large population combined with its geographic location ensured france was one of the great military powers of europe. By the 18th century, britain and germany (hapsburg empire) were afraid that france was going to dominate europe politically. France was very active in commerce in the 18th century. In 1750 france was predominantly an agricultural economy. Every 10 years, massive crop failure in france. Crop failure contributed to french revolution of 1789. In 1750, french society was no longer feudal, but it was not yet industrial or capitalist.