Bourgeois liberalism and revolutionary politics
The provincial assembly of Lyonnais
in Feudalism, venality, and revolution
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Historians have written about the growth of manufacturing in Lyonnais but have not explored the concrete ways it affected politics in the decades before the Revolution. I demonstrate that the political culture of the province promoted free trade as the means of furthering the expansion of local workshops. Immersed in this culture, the members of the provincial assembly publicly criticized the royal monopolies and tax farms inhibiting commerce. Yet when it came to actually reforming these institutions, they recoiled before the vested interests of local investors, court nobles, and royal finances. The discrepancy between the assembly’s liberal declarations and lack of action focused the gaze of commoners on the enduring privileges which, by all accounts, restricted opportunities and perpetuated poverty. People were thus motivated to join violent and fatal revolts in the summer of 1789 against the offices and personnel of the monopoly companies and tax farmers in St.-Étienne and Lyon.

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