The Historical Journal


The Economic Crisis of 1827–32 and the 1830 Revolution in Provincial France*

Pamela Pilbeama1

a1 Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London

A spectre is still haunting historians of nineteenth-century France, the spectre of the bourgeois revolution of 1830, surviving despite the exorcism of revisionists. It is a spector that distorts our image of the liberal opposition to Charles X and of the victors after the July Days. Restoration prefects, moved from department to department with increasing rapidity in Charles X's reign, were content to categorize critics of the Polignac government as bourgeois. In the July Monarchy socialists vilified the elite as an established bourgeoise who robbed the real revolutionaries, the artisans, of their rights.3 Early socialists, including Marx, defined bourgeois broadly, to embrace landowners, but later marxists, writing when France was less of an agrarian state, labelled the bourgeoisie of 1830 as a business and industrial elite. The most recent generation of revisionist historians has shown, by empirical and detailed investigations, that the development of industry and accompanying social change occurred over several centuries and that revolutions, in particular, 1789, were mainly political events and more likely to retard than to facilitate the evolution of bourgeois capitalism. Thus revisionist historians of nineteenth-century France refer to ‘notables’ and stress the numerical dominance of landowners rather than businessmen in the elite of both the Restoration and the July Monarchy.


* The departments covered by this study include Ain, Aisne, Ardennes, Aube, Côte-d'Or, Doubs, Jura, Haute-Marne, Meuse, Moselle, Nord, Pas-de-Calais, Puy-de-Dôme, Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, Rhône, Haute-Saône, Saône-et-Loire, Vosges and Yonne. They include the most industrialized departments outside Paris and some wine-producing areas. There has been no attempt to cover old provinces, but to take a reasonable sample from the more ‘advanced’ departments. I am grateful to the Central Research Fund, University of London and to the French Government for awards which enabled me to work in both national and local archives. I am also very grateful to the members of the French history seminar, Institute of Historical Research, University of London and the history research seminar, Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, University of London, for their valuable comments and suggestions on this paper.