Cover image for From Renaissance monarchy to absolute monarchy : French kings, nobles, & estates
From Renaissance monarchy to absolute monarchy : French kings, nobles, & estates
Major, J. Russell (James Russell), 1921-1998.
Johns Hopkins Paperbacks edition.
Publication Information:
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.

Physical Description:
xxi, 444 pages : illustrations, map ; 23 cm
General Note:
Originally published: Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, c1994.
The establishment of renaissance monarchy -- The flowering of the renaissance monarchy -- The late-medieval-renaissance nobility -- The wars of religion -- Henry IV -- The reprieve, 1610-1620 -- France finds a king, 1620-1624 -- Richelieu and Marillac, 1624-1629 -- Marillac and the provincial estates -- The triumph of Richelieu and Mazarin -- The nobility -- Louis XIV -- Kings, nobels, and estates in retropect.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DC111.5 .M3 1994 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
DC111.5 .M3 1994 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Scholars of early modern France have traditionally seen an alliance between the kings and the bourgeoisie, leading to an absolute, centralized monarchy, perhaps as early as the reign of Francis I (1515-47). In From Renaissance Monarchy to Absolute Monarchy , eminent historian J. Russell Major draws on forty-five years of research to dispute this view, offering both a masterful synthesis of existing scholarship and new information concerning the role of the nobility in these changes.

Renaissance monarchs, Major contends, had neither the army nor the bureaucracy to create an absolute monarchy; they were strong only if they won the support of the nobility and other vocal elements of the population. At first they enjoyed this support, but the Wars of Religion revealed their inherent weakness. Major describes the struggle between such statesmen as Bellièvre, Sully, Marillac, and Richelieu to impose their concept of reform and includes an account of how Louis XIV created an absolute monarchy by catering to the interests of the nobility and other provincial leaders. It was this "carrot" approach, accompanied by the threat of the "stick," that undergirded his absolutism.

Major concludes that the rise of absolutism was not accompanied, as has often been asserted, by the decline of the nobility. Rather, nobles were able to adapt to changing conditions that included the decline of feudalism, the invention of gunpowder, and inflation. In doing so, they remained the dominant class, whose support kings found it necessary to seek.

Author Notes

J. Russell Major is Charles Howard Candler Professor of Renaissance History Emeritus at Emory University. His many books include The Monarchy, the Estates, and the Aristocracy in Renaissance France , Representative Government in Early Modern France , and The Western World: Renaissance to the Present .

Reviews 1

Choice Review

It is a pity this will probably be the last book Major will ever write on French history. As the doyen of early modern French institutional history, Major (Emory Univ., emeritus) brings to a close a distinguished 45-year teaching and publishing career. In this work he traces his intellectual development as a historian. When Major entered the profession, the traditional interpretation of early modern French history proclaimed that the monarchy allied with the middle class to weaken the power of the noblesse d''ep'ee, which indirectly helped to create an absolute monarchy. Major's initial research on the Estates General and subsequent works by his students on the provincial estates did not see such a simplistic explanation for the rise of 17th-century French absolutism nor for the decline of the feudal nobility. The "Major School," as future historiography will describe it, resuscitated the power of the provincial estates and the nobility. Major argues that the monarchs openly cooperated with the provincial estates and deputies and relied on support, not from a weakened, but from an energized feudal nobility to increase monarchical power. This thoughtfully argued and skillfully written work will quickly become a standard for anyone interested in early modern French history. Recommended for all libraries. R. O. Lindsay; University of Montana