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18th Century France

James A. Watkins is an entrepreneur, musician, and a writer with four non-fiction books and hundreds of magazine articles read by millions.

Introduction

In the 18th century, France was by far the greatest power in Europe. French was the language of all educated Europeans. The longest reign in European history was that of Louis XIV, King of France, who reigned from 1643 to 1715. He created what is called the Ancien Regime, which ended in the disaster of the French Revolution in 1789.

France reigned supreme over Europe for 200 years. Paris was the unquestioned center of European fashion, culture, and politics. But by 1715 France had fallen into decadence and economic decline. That year the government had revenues of 69 million livres but expenditures of 132 million. The public debt zoomed to perhaps 1,800 million—which was unsustainable. State bureaucracies had grown into a huge octopus, smothering business with mountains of regulations.

Louis XV, who reigned from 1726 to 1774, allowed France to stagnate while he focused on hunting and women. The peasants began to starve when the government ran out of the free food they had grown accustomed to receiving.

MAP OF FRANCE

MAP OF FRANCE

Vauban, Jacquard, & French Cuisine

Vauban (1633-1707) was the greatest military engineer of his age. He built 160 fortresses in France—no two alike—that were made to last. Some even played a role as late as the First World War.

Vauban was first a soldier—wounded eight times on the battlefield. He would rise to the double rank of chief military engineer and marshal. Vauban did not glorify war. His chief aim was always to reduce casualties and end conflicts as quickly as possible.

Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752-1834) was a textile engineer from Lyon. He invented a set of punched cards to control the woof and shuttle of looms, which made it possible to weave cloth into predetermined patterns. From this idea came the first automated machinery. His concepts are used in computers today. He called his machines "hardware" and his punch cards "software."

The 18th century saw the advent of what is called "French cuisine." The French introduced a radical change from mere cooking to making an art and science of gastronomy. In the past, flavors, sauces, and spices were used to hide the taste of food. The French came up the idea of using these to bring out the unique taste of each dish.

Those who had the palate qualified to judge the results became known as "gourmets," though originally this only meant a good judge of wine. French cuisine became the rage around Europe.

PARIS 18TH CENTURY

PARIS 18TH CENTURY

18TH CENTURY FRENCH FASHION

18TH CENTURY FRENCH FASHION

Voltaire

Voltaire—real name Francois-Marie Arouet (1694-1778)—was a witty and militant poet, dramatist, novelist, historian, and philosopher. He was a Parisian but lived much of his life in exile, as his writings were often condemned. He was never quite respectable in Parisian society.

At age 32, he left Paris in disgrace and except for a three year interlude did not return until he was 84. Voltaire was also kicked out of Switzerland for his attacks on John Calvin. His last words were "I die adoring God."

Voltaire has many reputations. One is of a vicious, grinning defiler of all that is fair and noble in humanity. Another is of a man who prized justice and courage. Later in his life, he no longer believed in Progress through Reason. Man will never be cured of violence, fraud, and greed. It is best to retreat and live the simple life tending to one's own garden.

Voltaire, like many men, is a contradictory figure. He expressed much hatred for monarchs yet loved Frederick the Great of Prussia and Catherine the Great of Russia. He urged the abolition of the Church yet proclaimed religion as necessary to keep the ignorant, brutish poor from looting and killing the successful classes.

VOLTAIRE

VOLTAIRE

Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) was born in Geneva. He was to become an accomplished musician, composer, novelist, and philosopher; in between stints he served as a tutor, valet, and secretary.

Rousseau's big idea was that civilization and prosperity were corrupting forces on mankind. He believed in going "back to the land" and extolled the supposed virtues of primitive man. Rather than to rely on Reason, Rousseau felt men should rely on their emotions. For these ideas he is known as the first of the "Romantics."

He was the son of a Calvinist watchmaker from Geneva. As a young man, Rousseau moved to France where he became first the servant, then the adopted son, and finally the lover of a provincial lady with intellectual pretensions. He learned high manners, converted to Catholicism, and spent a spell as a monk.

Rousseau moved to Paris and became friends with Diderot. He married a woman of humble birth and had children. Rousseau supported his family as a music copyist.

He wrote books about government, politics, religion, morals, love, the arts, education, and society. He argued that the arts and sciences had not improved mankind.

Rousseau was an extremely unlikeable person who despised his fellow intellectuals—particularly Voltaire. Voltaire's fans were the enlightened elite; Rousseau appealed to the masses.

By the age of 43, Rousseau was once again a Protestant. His latest book, On the Origin of Inequality Among Men, had sent Voltaire into a rage. In it, Rousseau expressed his ideas that civilization had become too complex and artificial. Man should revert to the past and once again become a Noble Savage. Voltaire responded that Rousseau wanted us to "walk on all fours" like animals and behave like beasts.

What he really meant was that wealth and rank leads to injustice and then to instability. The ideal man is the independent farmer who governs himself and bows to no authority. He rejected the graces and luxuries of modern society. All of Rousseau's books met with huge success among the masses.

He published a great book on politics, The Social Contract. Here he agrees with John Locke that Representative Democracy is the best form of government—what he calls "elective aristocracy"—as long as the representatives act in the best interest of the public. Rousseau argues that direct democracy will not work for fallible human beings. And that representative democracy will only work for a people who are both free and moral.

Rousseau urged fathers to be involved with their children and mothers to nurse their babies. A child would grow up best in a rural setting, where it would learn firsthand about the beauty and variety of nature, the rhythm of the seasons, and about living creatures. Rousseau believed that cities are unhealthy, too complicated, hung up on conventions, susceptible to fads, home to shallow ambitions, and dens of dissipation.

He believed that the tremendous power and infinite beauty of visible nature are witnesses to the living God. Religion is at its best as a feeling that combines wonder with humility.

He had some similarities to your author. He was an autodidact and, of course, a voracious reader. Rousseau was a unique social being in that he could critique society as one who had seen it from every vantage point—low and high. He had been a poor waiter; he had been the guest of honor in mansions. He had worked in government and was well-traveled; he ended his days anonymously living a small cottage in a nondescript village.

Rousseau and Voltaire died in the same year, and their deaths were the last gasp of the Enlightenment. Pure Reason had proved unpersuasive and inadequate in making sense of the world. Its anti-Christ emphasis neglected the spiritual side of the human experience.

ROUSSEAU

ROUSSEAU

Encyclopedie

Encyclopedia—"the circle of teachings"—were all the rage in 18th century Europe, particularly in France. The French philosophers believed that everything would one day become known and that knowledge would emancipate mankind by the application of science to all questions.

These philosophes dreamed of a world no longer divided by nation, language, religion, or mores. The coming global utopia would have French as the universal language, Deism as the universal religion, and the Christian ethics of brotherhood and love as the universal morality—but Christianity itself must be eliminated with its church, theology, and supernatural history. For this to happen, the Bible must be deprecated and depreciated as a set of fables invented by ignorant or devious people.

The trailblazer for this philosophy had been an excommunicated Jew named Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677). He had formulated a worldview based on natural science complete with an impersonal God that was incompatible with the Bible. From this foundation the French philosophers sought to eliminate Christian tradition and Scripture from social theory and from the public debate.

God was acknowledged as the Creator—the Great Watchmaker. He had set the cosmos in motion but then let it run on its own. He endowed Man with Reason so that Man could discover His orderly scheme. From here, the idea arose that since God was not involved in human affairs, He was no longer needed. And from there the idea began to be whispered that perhaps He does not exist at all.

"Disbelief has in our time adopted a light, pleasant, frivolous style, with the aim of diverting the imagination, seducing the mind, and corrupting the heart. It puts on an air of profundity and sublimity . . . now it offers a brew of serious ideas with badinage, of pure moral advice with obscenities, of great truths with great errors, of faith with blasphemy. . . . it undertakes to reconcile Jesus Christ with Belial." ~ BEAUMONT, ARCHBISHOP OF PARIS (1762)

ENCYCLOPEDIE BY DIDEROT

ENCYCLOPEDIE BY DIDEROT

Diderot

Diderot (1713-1784) is the pivotal person of 18th century France. His mission was to bring together all the elements of the new creed of the French philosophers in one easily accessible place—an encyclopedia.

It took Diderot 26 years but he got it done, with great contributions from his best friend, Rousseau, who wrote all of the entries on music (among others). In Diderot's Encyclopedie he was able to insinuate the ideas of the philosophes across a wide range of subjects. It combined a great reference book with a pamphlet of propaganda. The Encyclopedie is the model through which all social engineering through education has proceeded apace.

Here is part of the entry on Consecrated Bread: "40,000 pieces of bread for communion will cost 80,000 livres which, multiplied by 52 Sundays adds up to more than 4 million livres. Why can't we be spared this expense? We are too childish and slaves to custom."

Diderot's Encyclopedie was a declaration of war against Christian orthodoxy and tradition. In order for it to receive wide readership, the wealthy of France subsidized it, as encyclopedias were very expensive to produce and buy. It was denounced by the Church as a sinister, blasphemous publication.

To Diderot, human beings are nothing more than animals. Therefore, what should be concentrated on are human life, behavior, instincts, sexuality, passions, and emotions. Diderot was fond of the island society found in Tahiti, which with its free, guiltless, open sexuality was superior to the civilized world, in his view.

The godless rich backed Diderot's subversive Encyclopedie because it attacked the church and the monarchy. Little did they know that their own class would be targeted before long by the guillotine.

DIDEROT

DIDEROT

Beaumarchais

Pierre Beaumarchais (1732-1799) was an extraordinary man in an age of extraordinary men. He rose from humble beginnings as the son and grandson of well-read watchmakers to become a huge celebrity. He was a man of letters, a skillful diplomat, a publicist, an extraordinarily eloquent writer and speaker, a fine singer, a good musician, and a comedic playwright who penned The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro.

Beaumarchais had little formal education but he was an ambitious autodidact. He is remembered as a cheerful, energetic man who was always quick to sympathize deeply with others. His two sisters became brilliant wits and poets. Beaumarchais coined the word drama to describe a play that was neither comedy nor tragedy.

He killed a man in a duel over a woman, and for this he was filled with remorse. False rumors circulated that he was a scoundrel. He was sent to prison, his reputation and finances ruined. This was the one time he is known to have sunk into shame and self-pity. At a later retrial, he was vindicated and restored to an even higher place in society.

Beaumarchais was the key French supporter of the American War of Independence. The royal council rejected his pleas for direct military aid, fearing war with England. Beaumarchais convinced his government to give him a million dollars to launch a "private" campaign on behalf of the American colonists, whilst France could officially forbid such action. He created an imaginary firm he called Rodrigue, Hortalez, and Company. It secretly supplied the Americans with 200 cannon; 25,000 firearms; 200,000 pounds of powder; and large quantities of mortars, ammunition, clothes, and other equipment.

BEAUMARCHAIS

BEAUMARCHAIS

France in the 1780s

The brothers Montgolfier built the first hot air balloon. Its sphere was made of thickened wallpaper because that is what the brothers manufactured. In 1783, a public demonstration was held in Paris of man's first flight up into the blue.

A man who called himself Count Cagliostro became famous as a miraculous healer who also foretold the future and communicated with the dead. High society people were bedazzled by the "Count." They befriended him, paid him lavishly for his services, and publicly pronounced him a supernatural being. He was actually a charlatan whose real name was Giuseppe Balsamo, son of an innkeeper in Italy. One of his schemes became known as the Affair of the Necklace, which involved a diamond necklace worth 1.6 million francs and Queen Marie-Antoinette.

THE BROTHERS MONTGOLFIER HOT AIR BALLOON TAKES FLIGHT

THE BROTHERS MONTGOLFIER HOT AIR BALLOON TAKES FLIGHT

THE DESIRE FOR HOPE AND CHANGE BROUGHT A FUNDAMENTAL TRANSFORMATION TO FRANCE

THE DESIRE FOR HOPE AND CHANGE BROUGHT A FUNDAMENTAL TRANSFORMATION TO FRANCE

Conclusion

France was bankrupt by 1788. For the first time in 175 years, the king called a meeting of the Estates General—an assembly of the three estates (nobles, clergy, and commoners). No one wanted to get rid of the king. The consensus was that a constitutional monarchy was needed in France; the vast, bloated bureaucracy needed to be reduced in scope and power; and the corrupt judiciary must be reformed.

The king decreed freedom of the press. Suddenly, politics was on the mind of every person in France, including women and children. The following year, a National Assembly was formed. Privileges of the nobles were abolished.

We can look back at history and see fairly clearly what happened next and why. But one thing about history that is harder to grasp is that the people living it had no idea what was to come. No one predicted it; only a handful wanted what happened to happen—a fundamental transformation of France. The Bastille was stormed and its guards needlessly massacred. Riots broke out in several cities. Dr. Guillotine proposed the machine that bears his name. The people wanted hope and change.

SOURCES

SOURCES

My primary sources for this Hub are From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life by Jacques Barzun; and Europe by Norman Davies.

Comments

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on March 05, 2019:

Ashutosh Tiwari ~ Nice to hear from you. Napoleon was one of a kid, that's for sure. Thank you for reading my Hub.

Ashutosh Tiwari from Lucknow, India on April 04, 2014:

@ James-a-watkins

I love Napoleon.

Vive La France.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on November 28, 2011:

Jackie Lynnley— Happy Thanksgiving to you belatedly. I hope you had a good one. I am grateful for the voted up and across! Thank you, Jackie, for the kind compliments.

James

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on November 23, 2011:

Great history lesson! Voted up and across. Happy Thanksgiving!

Jackie

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 31, 2011:

suzettenaples— Thank you! I am so glad you enjoyed reading this Hub.

As you say, "The Enlightenment had a huge impact on America and some of her ideas for a democracy."

Yep.

I sincerely appreciate the visit and your fine comments.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 31, 2011:

jimagain— I am flattered that you would read this Hub four times! Thank you for letting me know that this is the case.

Many great Americans, for one Abraham Lincoln, have said that if we are destroyed it will be from within not from without. I agree with your assessment and the analogy.

Thank you very much, my friend, for your outstanding remarks. I look forward to reading many more of your Hubs soon.

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on October 27, 2011:

Fascinating hub! I knew a little bit about the history of France, but certainly not in the detail you do. This is so informative. Some of the ideas of Voltaire and Rousseau became the ideas of our founding fathers here in America. The Enlightenment had a huge impact on America and some of her ideas for a democracy. That is the part I know about French history. I enjoyed reading this hub.

jimagain on October 27, 2011:

My 3rd re-read of this Hub. A riveting, chilling look into the mindset of the masses that led to the decline, then downfall of a once great nation. The analogy is too similar to our current condition to read without concern as we may very well be the agents of our own self-annhiliation. This isn't a history lesson as much as it is a look at our own dissolution.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 22, 2011:

Hello, hello,— You are more than welcome. Thank you for the laudatory remarks. :-)

Hello, hello, from London, UK on October 20, 2011:

As always a great article and history lesson. Thank you.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 20, 2011:

Robert! Hello, my friend. I am glad you like this article. Yes, I am writing about my favorite subject: History. Thank you for swinging by and letting me know that you did. I appreciate the compliments too. :)

Signed copy? You can count on it.

Robert on October 19, 2011:

James,

What an excellent piece. So you are publishing some History? I hope to get a signed copy!! Your writing gets better all the time and a pleasure to read. Take care Brother!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 16, 2011:

prasetio30— You are more than welcome, my friend. It is always a pleasure to read your comments. Yes, France is a wonderfully beautiful country. I have been there once.

I appreciate the voted up and your encouragement, Prasetio. Thank you for reading my work.

James

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 14, 2011:

swathi180— Thank you!! Thank you very much! :D

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 14, 2011:

stars439— Thank you, my dear friend, for your gracious compliments. God Bless You and your family.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 14, 2011:

b. Malin— As far as I am concerned, you are right on time. I sure appreciate the accolades. As far as the rest of your comments, I enjoyed reading them and I most certainly agree with your thoughts.

Thank you very much for taking the time to read my work here. It is always good to hear from you. :)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 14, 2011:

Dim Flaxenwick— You are most welcome. Thank you for the awesome accolades.

Yes, the French were far more sophisticated than those Scots. The Scots knew how to make money though, and many of them later were great philosophers and political scientists.

It is always a distinct pleasure to read your insightful comments. I surely appreciate this visitation from you. :)

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on October 14, 2011:

I love France as one of beautiful country in Europe. Thanks for share about the history of France. My brother, James. You always found something interesting to be written, especially about the history. Thanks for share with us. Keep on good work. Vote up and have a nice weekend.

Prasetio

swathi180 on October 13, 2011:

Great and interesting article.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 13, 2011:

thelyricwriter— Got your email. Thank you very much for the alert. It takes all kinds. But some do not play with a full deck.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 13, 2011:

CMHypno— You're welcome. Thank you for the kind compliment. I am glad you came to visit.

You wrote: "It must have been amazing to visit somewhere like Versailles during the 18th century and seen it at the height of its glory or talked about philosophy or politics in one of the Paris salons."

Here here! That is a great comment.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 13, 2011:

ama83— Hello there! It has been a long time since I have heard from you. How is the book publishing business? How are your folks? I haven't seen them around HubPages lately either, come to think of it.

Well, thank you very much for coming by and saying hello. It is good to "see" you again.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 13, 2011:

gryphin423— You are most welcome. Your accolades mean much to me coming from a woman with a degree in history such as yourself. I once lived in Tampa Bay, too.

As you said "France is a beautiful country with a rich history." Thank you for your comments. And you are welcome. :D

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 13, 2011:

Sueswan— Thank you! Thank you very much. :)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 13, 2011:

H P Roychoudhury— Thank you very much for taking the time to read my article, my friend. I just love the depth and insight in your thoughtful comments. I appreciate this visitation and the kind compliments.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 13, 2011:

funmontrealgirl— Thank you!! Thank you very much! :-)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 13, 2011:

sheila b.— I am well pleased that you enjoyed reading my Hub on 18th Century France and that you found it interesting. I am going to write about the French Revolution soon and thought this background piece was needed first. Thank you!

stars439 from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State. on October 13, 2011:

A wonderful hub, and quite and education. God Bless You My Brother, And Your Precious Family.

b. Malin on October 12, 2011:

I'm sorry I arrived late for this Wonderful History Lesson James. These men were such fascinating "French Men"...with their principals, their beliefs...Poets, Writers, Engineers...and of course, Kings and Queens...And in the End, they all wanted Hope and Change and many died to achieve it. Bravo, my friend for such a well written and Informative HUb.

Dim Flaxenwick from Great Britain on October 11, 2011:

l love to come to your page for my history lessons,.

l remember reading the biography of Mary , Queen of Scots, and feeling so sorry for her, when after being raised in the wonderful, cultural atmosphere of the French court, she was thrown into a major culture shock. On becoming Queen , of course she had to move to scotland, which was so far behind the times of the french. Her Lords seemed like barbarians compared to what she had grown up with.

This hub is jam packed with great information as always. Thank you.

Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on October 11, 2011:

James, check your email. Message from me. Very important. Thanks.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 11, 2011:

always exploring— Thank you!! Thank you very much. And you are welcome.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 11, 2011:

Lynn S. Murphy— Thank you for the kind compliments. I surely agree with you that, as you said so well, "one must keep its eye on the collective ball to make sure those in charge continue to act in the best interest of the garden tenders."

:)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 11, 2011:

Hyphenbird— You are most welcome, melady. I love history, too. And I absolutely loved your Hub on Wabi-Sabi.

Thank you very much for the lovely laudations! I am grateful that you have visited and left behind your warm words. :-)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 11, 2011:

DavePrice— A life lived with balance is a fine goal, my friend.

I enjoyed your thoughtful remarks. Thank you for taking the time to read my work. I appreciate the visit and your comments.

I will look forward to reading your "explorations." :D

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 11, 2011:

Gypsy Rose Lee— I am glad you enjoyed my work here. I took a couple home courses in French and it helped me to be able to understand it in print, and to say some things and understand the most common spoken phrases and words. But I did not get the hang of it enough to have an actual conversation in French.

Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on October 10, 2011:

James, you there? I need to speak with ya.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 10, 2011:

PenMePretty— I am so grateful for your laudations and the thumbs up!

As you said so well "It seems people as far back as when history began, like us now, wanted hope and change...for the good that is"

Yes, indeed, my dear.

You wrote: "In so many ways things haven't changed that much. Just names and situations. We are all intertwined in ways, have been and will be always."

Amen!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 10, 2011:

thelyricwriter— I just love history. Of course, a complete history of 18th century France would take 2000 pages. I did the best I could to condense it to the most vital parts. :)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 10, 2011:

Alastar Packer— You are most welcome, my friend. I love that last painting, too. Yes, that is a guillotine in the background. It is what awaits thousands of poor souls who supported the French Revolution in its initial stages, only to find their own necks chopped off in the end. It is a lesson to those wealthy Americans who spout off in favor of "a fundamental transformation of America" without being smart enough to know that THEY will be its eventual victims. :D

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 10, 2011:

dahoglund— Thank you!! Thank you very much! :D

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 10, 2011:

Cardisa— There is a fine line between genius and madness, someone once said. I agree with that.

All men, no matter how brilliant, are flawed.

Thank you for your insightful and thoughtful remarks.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 10, 2011:

RedElf— I am so glad that you found this Hub to be fascinating. I enjoyed reading your erudite remarks. I agree with you totally. Thank you for visiting and commenting.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 10, 2011:

jimagain— You are welcome, my new friend. I sincerely appreciate your kind compliments. I enjoyed the reference to Scripture, as well.

You wrote: "I see many parallels in history to our modern culture"

Good eye! Thank you.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 10, 2011:

Whidbeywriter— I am so appreciative for your blessings and the voted awesome!

Your laudations are received by me with a grateful heart. Thank you ever much for taking the time to read this piece.

God Bless You!

James

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 10, 2011:

drbj— Every time I read your comments on one of my Hubs I am so encouraged and thankful. Yes, history does indeed repeat itself. As King Solomon said, "There is nothing new under the sun."

Of course, the wisest man who ever lived was not referring to technology, or the fact that all of us have the privilege of standing on the shoulders of the giants who came before us. He was referring to the human heart, which has always been the same—to the chagrin of Darwinists.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 10, 2011:

GmaGoldie— You are most welcome, my dear. Yes, Thomas Jefferson was quite the Francophile.

I am grateful for your accolades. Thank you so much for reading my work and for your kind comments. :)

James

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 10, 2011:

Vladimir Uhri! Thank you, my brother. And you are surely welcome. :D

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 10, 2011:

Beata Stasak— You are quite welcome. Thank you very much!! :-)

CMHypno from Other Side of the Sun on October 10, 2011:

Very interesting hub as always James. Thanks for all the information on these great French historical personages. It must have been amazing to visit somewhere like Versailles during the 18th century and seen it at the height of its glory or talked about philosophy or politics in one of the Paris salons

ama83 from San Jose, CA on October 10, 2011:

Hello Mr. Watkins!

Long time no write!

Although I have visited France briefly, this hub reminds me how much I need to have another, more lengthy visit. It's such a beautiful country with such rich history, as you pointed out, here :)

Sorry for my prolonged absence. I wasn't receiving my notifications :(

gryphin423 from Florida on October 10, 2011:

A really good read, well written and detailed. France is a beautiful country with a rich history.Thank you, I enjoyed it immensely.

Sueswan on October 10, 2011:

A very interesting read.

Voted up and awesome.

H P Roychoudhury from Guwahati, India on October 10, 2011:

It is a well written hub nicely narrated the great history of France. It was the place where from new designs of life and administration evolved. Your beautiful style of writing about the great philosophical stalwarts of French has made it interesting and exciting in the evolution of new thoughts of life in French remaining in prosperity as well as in poverty.

funmontrealgirl from Montreal on October 10, 2011:

What a great and informative article. Lots of detail about all of the top characters from 18th Century France.

sheila b. on October 10, 2011:

Wouldn't you think the French would learn from their own history? Yet I don't see that they have. This was really interesting to read. I hadn't known much more than the names of most you wrote about, so I'm glad to have learned more.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on October 09, 2011:

This was very interesting to me, and educational too. Well written. Thank you...

Lynn S. Murphy on October 09, 2011:

Wonderful and interesting history lesson. I agree with tending one's garden, however, while tending, one must keep its eye on the collective ball to make sure those in charge continue to act in the best interest of the garden tenders.

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on October 09, 2011:

This is an excellent history lesson. I love history, and knew a bit about France. Not to this extent however. Your knowledge is outstanding and presented perfectly. Like DavePrice I love this line, "It is best to retreat and live the simple life tending to one's own garden." I shall remember that in my Wabi way. I am referring Mr. Alastar Packer here as he is a history buff also. Thank you for an unforgettable presentation.

DavePrice from Sugar Grove, Ill on October 09, 2011:

I agree wholeheartedly, another fascinating read. There are dozens of ideas within that could sustain their own exploration, which you spur me to do myself for the joy of it. I was most struck by one passage, "Man will never be cured of violence, fraud, and greed. It is best to retreat and live the simple life tending to one's own garden." When a man wearies of the worldly fight, this is his first response, one which I have employed from time to time myself, only to return to the field of battle. Perhaps I am simply learning the balance of the two. Great read brother.

Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on October 09, 2011:

A fascinating read. Viva la France! and C'est la vie! If I remember these sayings correctly. Tried to learn French but even though I took it all through high school I can only speak a few phrases.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 08, 2011:

MonetteforJack— You are most welcome, my dear. Thank you ever much for the "voted up and everything except funny!"

I appreciate your recognition of the pictures I selected.

I will be publishing several history books and as per your request I will surely let you know when they are published.

I am grateful for your encouragement. :D

James

PenMePretty from Franklin on October 08, 2011:

It seems people as far back as when history began, like us now, wanted hope and change...for the good that is. In so many ways things haven't changed that much. Just names and situations. We are all intertwined in ways, have been and will be always. You definitely get An Excellent, A+ on your homework! I voted everything for you. You keep it all interesting. Thanks for sharing. Thumbs up!

Richard Ricky Hale from West Virginia on October 08, 2011:

Very good article James. You have very high quality hubs pal. I always enjoy reading about the past, any 18th century history. I agree. A great review.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on October 08, 2011:

18th century France is a fave here and your article on it is super James. What a coincidence, just wrote on a comment about finding new things on a subject you thought you new pretty well. Vauban, Jacquard, Diderot, all new. New and interesting things on the others too. The last painting is unusual. Is that a Guillotine in the background. Thanks for the enlightening read my friend.

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on October 08, 2011:

I've studied some of these men in college many years ago. It was a nice review. voted up, useful and interesting.

Carolee Samuda from Jamaica on October 08, 2011:

I think Voltaire was confused or mad!

James, I know just where to come for my history lessons. French history isn't boring at all. Some of these famous men were heroes while others were just plain mad.

RedElf from Canada on October 08, 2011:

Diderot and Rousseau did much to shape the basis of modern thought, particularly in the quest to acquire knowledge and the idea that science is the solution to all of humanity's problems. Fascinating hub, James!

Jim Henderson from Hattiesburg, Mississippi on October 08, 2011:

Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations... Deuteronomy 32:7. I see many parallels in history to our modern culture. Thanks for a useful look into the root of modern culture which, while touted as a fresh modern soultion free from archaic restraints of the past, will undoubtedly result in the same dismal failure of western society as before. This should be required reading.

Mary Gaines from Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, Washington on October 08, 2011:

Very nicely researched and written. Interesting information, there are certainly some good things the French are known for, but the others, well we don't want to repeat them. Voted awesome - you never disappoint James - Blessings

drbj and sherry from south Florida on October 08, 2011:

When your name is on the hub article, James, I know I am going to be entertained and at the same time learn something I had never known or simply forgotten. This hub was no exception.

Isn't it fascinating how history repeats itself? I refer in particular to your quoting Locke and Rousseau: "Democracy is the best form of government ... as long as the representatives act in the best interest of the public." Doesn't that have a too familiar ring to it?

Kelly Kline Burnett from Madison, Wisconsin on October 08, 2011:

James,

Thomas Jefferson was a great fan and supporter of France. He collected many pieces of art and hundreds of books-probably during this same timeframe?

Greatly enjoy your history and your art. As always you remain one of the most enjoyable reasons to be here on Hub Pages. Thank you very much!

Vladimir Uhri from HubPages, FB on October 08, 2011:

James, again, thank you for an excellent piece of work.

Beata Stasak from Western Australia on October 08, 2011:

Very useful and interesting..thank you:)

MonetteforJack from Tuckerton, NJ on October 07, 2011:

Awesomeness !!! I voted up and everything except funny. I clicked beautiful because the pictures are appropriately placed and really, made the hub more captivating. Geez, I am transported back to history and -- again, AGAIN, again, I am learning so much from you and your hub! Anytime you'll write/publish a history book, please, let me know. Thanks and more successes!

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 07, 2011:

"Quill Again"— What a pleasure it is to hear from you, Brother! Thank you for the compliment and your blessings. :)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 07, 2011:

liftandsoar— Yes, indeed. I am happy that you "got it." Thank you for your remarks.

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 07, 2011:

SanneL— You are most welcome. I am glad you liked it! Thank you for visiting and commenting.

James :-)

James A Watkins (author) from Chicago on October 07, 2011:

Jed Fisher— Thank you for being my first visitor! I sincerely appreciate your ultra pithy comment. Nuff said. :D

"Quill Again" on October 07, 2011:

Well, written as always James... very interesting.

Blessings

Frank P. Crane from Richmond, VA on October 07, 2011:

Interesting and sobering in light of our own times.

SanneL from Sweden on October 07, 2011:

Thank you for this very well researched and very educational hub!

Sannel

Jed Fisher from Oklahoma on October 07, 2011:

Awesome.