social elites the aristocracy and the bourgeoisie
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Social elites: The aristocracy and the bourgeoisie. Dr Chris Pearson. Social classes in 19 th century France. Elites (week 3) Working classes (week 4) Peasants (weeks 5 and 7). How do we define these classes and membership of them?

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social classes in 19 th century france
Social classes in 19th century France
  • Elites (week 3)
  • Working classes (week 4)
  • Peasants (weeks 5 and 7)
How do we define these classes and membership of them?
  • Did members of the class self-consciously see themselves as e.g. working class or bourgeois?
  • How unified were the classes and how did they change over the course of the nineteenth century?
  • What was the relationship between the different classes? Antagonistic? Co-operation? Fear?
an important question
An important question!
  • Is class a “natural” given – determined by income and other socio-economic factors or is it something that is created (or constructed)?
lecture outline
Lecture outline
  • Defining the elite
  • The aristocracy
  • The bourgeoisie
grands notables landed magnates
Grands notables (landed magnates)
  • Pay over 1,000 francs a year in tax and ‘the great magnate has possessions, has knowledge, has connections, has a family, has an office which gives him part of public authority… he has a name and often a title, he is a notable as a function of what he has.’

André-Jean Tudesq, Les Grands notables en France, vol 1. p. 457

defining the elite
Defining the elite
  • Financial (certain level of income and property)
  • Political (access to power – voting, law-making, ensuring its own interests are met)
  • Cultural (shared attitudes and way of life - formed, in part, through education)
the aristocracy
The aristocracy
  • Ancien régime: approximately 1 in 200 of the population (25,000 families, approx 125,000 members).
  • Owned one third of land property, dominated society
seigneurial dues
Seigneurial dues
  • Regular payments of cash or produce (crops) made by farmers who lived and worked on the aristocracy’s land.

Champart - one-twelfth or one-sixth of major crop given to the nobility

aristocracy and the french revolution 1789 onwards
Aristocracy and the French Revolution (1789 onwards)

1,518 or 0.6% of nobles executed

16,000 or 8% emigrated

Half of aristocratic families lost land


Still owned 20% of land

Remained amongst France’s ‘grands notables’

Still dominated peasants, esp in the Vendée

aristocrats and the first empire 1804 1814
Aristocrats and the First Empire (1804-1814)

Napoleon: ‘I offered them ranks in my army, but they did not want them, offices in my administration, but they refused them. But I opened the antechambers of my household, and they rushed in’

1808 Emperor Napoleon creates ‘imperial nobility’ which numbered 3,364 by 1815
  • Attempt to fuse ancien régime and revolutionary elites
  • By 1814, 43% of prefects were nobles
the restoration an indian summer for the aristocracy
The restoration: An Indian summer for the aristocracy?
  • The “White Terror”
  • Nobles take key posts in administration and seek revenge on regicides
  • By 1829, 75% of prefects are nobles
  • Emigrés return
  • 1825 compensation law
  • Nobles continue to exert an influence with the Catholic clergy
the aristocracy post 1830
The aristocracy post-1830
  • Some fight back: Duchesse du Berry’s (failed uprising) of 1832
  • Some retreat to their estates and try to recreate the ancien régime: e.g. Comte Théodore de Quatrebarbes (Vendée)
political survival
Political survival
  • Fear of Political violence and upheaval
  • 1848 revolution and declaration of Second Republic
  • Some nobles react by forming the ‘Party of order’ with conservative bourgeois e.g. Molé, Charles de Falloux, Charles de Rémusat
reinventing themselves
Reinventing themselves
  • Embracing capitalism: Benoit d’Azy owned a metal works in Alais
  • But some fears of degrading themselves by making money
  • Internal migration and agricultural modernization on some estates
Links with the bourgeoisie
  • Greater links with the bourgeoisie – marrying into money (some bourgeois keen to marry into nobility, others added a ‘de’ before their surname)
  • But also attempts to preserve aristocratic lifestyles – ‘conspicuous consumption,’ hunting, houses in cities and country
  • Low rates of intermarriage
the aristocracy under the third republic
The aristocracy under the Third Republic
  • 1873 – comeback?
  • No, as the Third Republic is consolidated
  • Gibson: the ‘easy-going, paternalist and often charitable’ nobles lost ‘hearts and minds of Frenchmen,’ especially of the peasantry
  • Outdated worldview
  • Waning economic power: ‘the basis of power, the land… betrayed the notables at a time of agricultural crisis’ Christophe Charle
the bourgeoisie
The bourgeoisie
  • ‘Bourgeois’ – originally meant inhabitant of urban area (but confusingly was also sometimes used to describe rural elite)
  • 12-15% Paris’ population who could afford to pay for their own funeral, had at least one servant, paid certain level of tax (Adeline Daumard’s definition in Les Bourgeois de Paris au XIXe siecle [1970])
bourgeois diversity
Bourgeois diversity:
  • Haute bourgeoisie – rich financiers and merchants
  • Bonne bourgeoisie – modest lawyers, middling business men, middle-ranking civil servants
  • Petite bourgeoisie – small employers, shop keepers
  • Plus: political, religious, regional differences (see Theodore Zeldin, France 1848-1945)
creating bourgeois identities
Creating bourgeois identities
  • Carol Harrison in The Bourgeois Citizen in Nineteenth Century France (1999) : bourgeois identity cultural and created (or performed) rather than determined by economic background
  • Cercles [learned societies]: places in which bourgeois male identity was consolidated – provided a way for bourgeois men to enter public sphere and exclude women and others
common bourgeois values
Common bourgeois values
  • An emphasis on family values and female domesticity
  • Defence of property rights
  • Individualism
  • Respect for education
  • Sobriety
  • Cleanliness
  • Hard work
  • Order (in the public and private spheres)
‘I want neither the commotions nor the popular excesses of a republican government; nor do I want the divine right which claims France as its patrimony, and which wants to smother the progress of reason with the tyranny of aristocracy and absolutism’

Henri-Joseph Gisquet (Paris Prefect of Police in the 1830s)

did the grande bourgeoisie monopolize power
Did the grande bourgeoisie monopolize power?
  • No, because of:
  • Continuing influence of aristocracy
  • Bourgeoisie too diverse to dominant society (Zeldin)
  • Third Republic more democratic and represented interests of the nouvelles couches sociales (lower middle classes)
  • Majority of wealth continued to be held by the few (10% of Lille’s population held 90% of its wealth)
  • Upper bourgeois dominated grandes écoles, administration, and parliament
  • Powerful lobby groups formed to defend capitalists interest i.e. Comité des forges