By Steven Laurence Kaplan

In preindustrial Europe, dependence on grain formed each part of existence from financial improvement to religious expression, and the matter of subsistence ruled the typical order of items in a cruel and unremitting manner. Steven Laurence Kaplan’s The Bakers of Paris and the Bread query, 1700–1775 specializes in the construction and distribution of France’s most crucial commodity within the sprawling city heart of eighteenth-century Paris the place provisioning wishes have been so much acutely felt and such a lot tough to fulfill. Kaplan indicates how the relentless call for for bread developed the development of lifestyle in Paris as decisively and subtly as difficult protocol ruled the social lifestyles at Versailles.

Despite the overwhelming salience of bread in private and non-private existence, Kaplan’s is the 1st inquiry into the methods bread exercised its sizeable and critical empire. Bread framed desires in addition to nightmares. It used to be the employees of lifestyles, the medium of communion, a subject matter of universal discourse, and a mark of culture in addition to transcendence. In his exploration of bread’s materiality and cultural which means, Kaplan appears at bread’s fashioning of id and examines the stipulations of provide and insist available on the market. He additionally units forth an entire heritage of the bakers and their guild, and unmasks the tools utilized by the specialists of their efforts to manage trade.

Because the bakers and their bread have been relevant to Parisian way of life, Kaplan’s learn is additionally a complete meditation on a complete society, its govt, and its potential to suffer. Long-awaited by way of French historical past students, The Bakers of Paris and the Bread query, 1700–1775 is a landmark in eighteenth-century historiography, a publication that deeply contextualizes, and hence enriches our realizing of 1 of an important eras in eu background.

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1215/978082238 Duke University Press, 1996. All rights reserved. 107 Chapter I Breadways Psychologically, culturally, politically, and economically, bread was one of the most powerful "structuring structures" that governed private and public life in Old Regime France. It was at the core of both the material and symbolic organization of everyday existence. France was not merely "panivore," following the picturesque contemporary idiom; it was obsessed with bread. 1 Bread was its primary means ofsurvival, its paramount vector ofsacrality, and its most comforting trope.

It was not codified or formalized in a legal grammar but allowed to evolve constantly in the vernacular of custom. Its norms were quite elastic, especially at the margins. The everyday order groped not toward universal rigor but rather toward a viable and visible middle road. It precluded neither conflict nor disorder in many spheres, but it consecrated provisioning as a nonpartisan issue subject to debate perhaps on means but never on ends. This order was founded on the instinctively felt conviction that the city could not survive without a degree of collective selfrestraint, a shared sense oflimits, and a will to reduce its vulnerability.

Neither seems readily applicable to the tens of thousands of Parisians who were "objectively" and comparatively too poor for wheat. Their claim on wheat cannot be explained in purely market terms. Nor can either argument account for the tenacity of resistance to any move away from wheat even in calamitous Breadways 31 From The Bakers of Paris and the Bread Question, 1700-1775 by Kaplan, Steven Laurence. 1215/978082238 Duke University Press, 1996. All rights reserved. 107 times, when victualers such as the Swiss banker Isaac Thellusson and philosophes such as Voltaire deplored the "dainty refinement" of urban consumers.

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