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The Enlightenment was an Ancien Regime phenomenon. The Revolution transformed it by wrenching it, like so much else, into a new and different shape. 36 (v) European When the men of 1789 first formulated the idea of the Ancien Regime, they were thinking of something French. Very soon, however, as foreign onlookers started to condemn what they were doing, they came to regard the Ancien Regime as an order of things that far transcended the frontiers of France, and remained alive and dangerous beyond them.

From the sixteenth century through to the 19 eighteenth the state was constantly over-extended, and ministers staggered from one hand-to-mouth expedient to the next. There were repeated bankruptcies, and financiers whose resources and contacts held off collapse in one reign were ruthlessly persecuted in the next [47]. Keeping the monarchy afloat financially was a dangerous but lucrative private business which only the occasional minister ever thought of changing, and then usually to his cost [48].

Most taxes and rents came out of the pockets of peasants working the soil. But until late in the eighteenth century the state left agriculture largely to its own devices, because ministers like Colbert were convinced that manufactures were the true way to enrich the state. By producing all it needed a state could avoid dependence on foreign imports; by producing more than it needed it could bring in the wealth of others 28 by exporting. And by protecting, regulating and supervising crucial economic sectors a government could make them flourish.

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