Remembering and Restoring the Economic Ancien Régime: France and Its Colonies, 1815–1830

  • David Todd
Part of the War, Culture and Society, 1750–1850 book series (WCS)


Neither economists nor historians have paid much attention to the influence of memory on economic policy and economic change. Modern economics are not unconcerned with the passage of time, but have instead placed an emphasis on the role of anticipations as a key factor in the behaviour of economic agents. Economic historians have proved more sensitive to the influence of past events on the present, but their reliance on quantifiable data has led them to focus on path dependency as a result of objective factors rather than the more subjective role of personal or collective memories. Such neglect is particularly apparent in the classical debate about the consequences of the 1789 Revolution on French and European economic development. Following Ernest Labrousse, supporters of a Marxist interpretation insisted on the limitations of the Ancien Régime’s economy and viewed the Revolution as an accelerator of capitalist development.1 Their adversaries, led by François Crouzet, insisted instead on the catastrophic consequences of hyperinflation and of the disruption of Atlantic commerce, even though Crouzet conceded that Napoleon’s Continental Blockade facilitated the emergence of a modern manufacturing sector in north-eastern France, Belgium and the Rhineland.2 Even the so-called revisionists, who gave a more optimistic account of the growth of per capita incomes in nineteenth-century France, still used the negative consequences of the Revolution as an excuse for the slow pace of French economic growth after 1815.3


Slave Trade French Colonial Land Border Colonial Good Colonial Producer 
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© David Todd 2016

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  • David Todd

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