THE NAMES OF KINGS: Parisian Laboring Poor in the Eighteenth Century by Jeffry Kaplow

THE NAMES OF KINGS: Parisian Laboring Poor in the Eighteenth Century

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Until the last few years the laboring poor of pre-Industrial Europe were largely forgotten or ignored by historians. Occasionally the specter of la canaille, the riotous urban mob, reared its disheveled head but the day-to-day life of artisans, journeymen, street vendors, porters, carpenters, tailors, coal-heavers, et al. escaped historical scrutiny. Kaplow's study of the ""culture of poverty"" among the menu peuple of 18th-century Paris extends the pioneering work of George Rude and Albert Soboul and breathes life into the realities of their lives. Demographic and occupational statistics for the Ancien Regime are few and not always reliable; Kaplow has wisely supplemented the records of guilds, the police, and royal and provincial administrators with more subjective accounts of travelers to recreate a vivid panorama of life in the streets, marketplaces, homes, hospitals and prisons of Paris. Heavily oriented toward sociology, Kaplow is out to chart the unglamorous, mundane parameters of an existence that was usually short, brutish and nasty. How many livres a week did the coal-heavers bring home? How many ounces of meat did their weekly diets include? How many of their children survived into adulthood? What was their response to inflation and a sudden rise in the price of bread? Like Rude and Soboul, Kaplow concludes that the laboring poor of the 18th century were not yet a ""working class"" -- their collective identity was that of consumers (i.e. the chronic bread riots) rather than producers; their mentality was prepolitical; steeped in religiosity they were also ardent royalists. Kaplow persuasively builds his case for a ""psychology of acceptance"" which inured them against hardships and inhibited the formation of a consciousness of oppression until the eve of the French Revolution. Kaplow's sense of the Parisian poor is dynamic and organic; his audience is bound to be somewhat special and academic though our own current preoccupation with blue-collar discontent may extend it beyond the university classroom.

Pub Date: Dec. 29th, 1972
Publisher: Basic Books