France during the reign of Louis XVI


By Emma Kennedy, published 31st August 2005

The system of Ancien Régime France was indeed archaic, to the extent that its nominal social structure not only contained remnants of the feudal system, like many European countries at that time, but was largely based on it. The extensive corruption inherent in this same system was such that those in power, who had mostly, either purchased their positions, inherited them or gained them by dint of their noble birth, were consumed by an egoism and self-interest that rendered them largely unable to consider the interests of the Third Estate. Although the country did show signs of economic progress, especially in overseas trade and urban areas, further economic progress on a large scale was impossible without significant advancements in industry; however, this was severely restricted by both the country's bankruptcy and its rigid social structure. It was the same rigid estate system which also hindered social progress, together with the extensive, crippling but inefficient fiscal system and the seigneurial system: although the bourgeoisie were gradually increasing in number and wealth, money did not always equate to a position of power, and although those

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