John Shovlin

in The Oxford Handbook of the Ancien Régime

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199291205
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History


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Historians of the Ancien Régime long viewed the nobility as a holdover from a feudal age, an antiquated breed condemned to a slow, and ultimately terminal, decline. Nobles were regarded as the casualties of secular political and social transformations: the rise of the absolutist state, which stripped them of political power; and economic transformations, which increased the relative wealth of non-nobles, and empowered them to challenge the nobility's supremacy. Since the 1960s, however, revisionist scholarship has almost entirely jettisoned this view. The nobility is now widely seen as a social group that participated massively in the processes of modernization that transformed seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe. Through its economic role and values, its service to the monarchical state, its openness to new recruits, and its engagement in the public sphere, the nobility moved with the times.

Keywords: nobility; Ancien Régime; feudal age; social group; political institution; monarchical state

Article.  8216 words. 

Subjects: History ; Social and Cultural History

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