Add to GoodReads

The Royal Financial Administration and the Prosecution of Crime in France, 1670–1789

Albert N. Hamscher

The Royal Financial Administration and the Prosecution of Crime in France, 1670–1789 explores the French monarchy’s role in financing criminal prosecutions in the royal courts of the realm—the payment of criminal frais de justice in the vocabulary of the ancien régime—between 1670 and 1789 (that is, from the codification of criminal judicial procedure in the early period of Louis XIV’s personal rule to the outbreak of the French Revolution). The subject brings together three areas of scholarly inquiry—criminal justice, royal administration, and the management of the crown’s finances. A central goal of the study is to provide factual information and interpretive insights on each of these topics and to explain the relationship of each to the others over a long time period. The book contributes to existing scholarship in four ways. First, although each of the major dimensions of the inquiry—the operation of the criminal justice system, the conduct of the royal administration, and the management of the monarchy’s finances—has a large and increasingly sophisticated historical literature, this is the first study to combine them in a systematic way. Second, the long time period covered in the book not only enables the historian to distinguish gradual from rapid change, but it also allows the reader to view how the system functioned in different historical contexts. Third, the study is based on archival sources throughout France. This comprehensive approach permits the identification of elements of a common experience without sacrificing attention to important aspects of regional diversity. Finally, with respect to the sources themselves, the range is broad, encompassing regulatory acts and decisions of the king’s councils; administrative correspondence at the central, regional, and in some cases local levels; financial accounts and related papers; and court records from the major appellate courts and from several lower courts as well. An appendix of 33 tables lists figures of annual expenditure and other pertinent financial operations for each of the major financial districts of the kingdom. « less more »
University Press Copublishing Division / University of Delaware Press
Pages: 556Size: 9 x 11 1/2
978-1-61149-374-0 • Hardback • July 2012 • $121.00 • (£80.00)
978-1-61149-375-7 • eBook • July 2012 • $115.00 • (£75.00)
Albert N. Hamscher is Kenneth S. Davis Professor of History at Kansas State University.
List of Tables
List of Charts
Chapter One: The French Monarchy and Criminal “Frais de Justice”: General Considerations
1. The Concept of Grand Criminel
2. The Royal Courts and Criminal Frais de Justice
3. The Division of Financial Responsibility
4. Lines of Administrative Authority and Royal Financial Accounts
Chapter Two: The Establishment of Colbert’s System, Mid-1660s--Early 1670s
1. The Royal Domain: Preliminary Observations
2. The Context of Judicial Reform
3. Colbert’s System
Chapter Three: The Implementation of Colbert’s System, 1670-1683
1. Problems
2. Colbert’s Response
3. The View from the Parlement of Paris
Chapter Four: The Financial Records, Mid-1680s—1789
1. The Elements of a New System
2. Interpreting Financial Documents
Chapter Five: Inside the Numbers, Mid-1680s--1789
1. Regional Diversity
2. Trends and Patterns of Expenditure
Chapter Six: Challenges and Refinements, Mid 1680s--Mid-1740s
1. The System Under Stress
2. Positive Developments
3. Increased Expenditure
4. Work on a General Statute
5. Orry and Reform
Chapter Seven: Maturity, Mid-1730s—1789
1. Orry’s Legacy
2. Matters of Administration
3. New Financial Commitments and Traditional Restraints on Spending
4. Spending Rises
Chapter Eight: A Shared Financial Responsibility, 1670s-1789
1. Private Individuals, Public Authorities
2. Recovery Rolls
Final Thoughts
This detailed, chronologically wide-ranging study provides an unusual and valuable anatomizing of the neglected ‘underside’ of Ancien Re´gime French administration. … Hamscher’s study is remarkable for the depth and detail of its research, with material collated from thirty-five departmental archives as well as Paris collections. . . . An Appendix provides comprehensive detail of this combination of general patterns and regional variations. This is an extraordinary piece of sustained research into the workings of a hitherto unexplored aspect of the Ancien Re´gimes.
French Studies

[T]here are innumerable fresh insights and discussions throughout the volume to engage students of other aspects of pre-revolutionary France. It should find a place in every library claiming to offer adequate coverage of the topic.
European History Quarterly

During the last century and one-half of its existence, the Old Regime French monarchy
struggled from one fiscal crisis to the next, and financial considerations often dictated
state policy in key ways. Funding issues even shaped judicial policy, sometimes mandating the categories of crime that could be prosecuted at crown expense. Thus, this study of the financing of royal justice, the result of extensive research by one of the foremost scholars of the administration and judiciary of the Old Regime, represents a signal contribution to our understanding of the monarchy. Indeed, the author's meticulous examination of the financing of royal justice will prove invaluable to all students of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century France.

Julius R. Ruff, Professor and Acting Chairman, Department of History, Marquette University

Albert Hamscher's impressive study of the 'costs of justice' for criminal cases prosecuted at royal expense in early modern France stands securely on his astute tracking of the combined daily practices of key institutions—judicial, administrative, and financial—that were engaged in the complex system.

Sarah Hanley, University of Iowa