Pierre‐Yves Beaurepaire

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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The last century of the Ancien Régime brought new departures in sociability, akin to those in the circulation of free, direct, and useful information. Contemporaries sought to create frameworks for association less subject to the obligations required by the authorized sociability of rulers or the church. They still sought protection, for it vouchsafed autonomy in exchange for tribute paid in published form to the glory and generosity of the protector through dedications or other marks of honour, but the emphasis was on the principle of voluntary belonging. This meant that statutes and rules did not come from outside, as in a charter, but rather were planned, elaborated, and adopted from within. The members accepted them voluntarily: nobody had imposed them. This principle of individuals voluntarily joining a group marked a fundamental break from traditional sociability, but it kept within continuity in observing the rules and distinctions of the Ancien Régime, as was shown in the artificial equality of interpersonal relations found in the salons, and the respect given to outside titles and qualities within masonic lodges.

Keywords: sociability; Ancien Régime; church; artificial equality; interpersonal relations; salons; autonomy

Article.  7252 words. 

Subjects: History ; Social and Cultural History

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