18th century France  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
18th century French literature, 18th century French art, French materialism, Early Modern France

After the Nine Years War gained France only Haiti (lost to a slave revolt a century later), the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1713) ended with the undoing of Louis's dreams of a Franco-Spanish Bourbon empire: the two conflicts strained French resources already weakened by disastrous harvests in the 1690s and in 1709, as well as by the revocation (1685) of the Edict of Nantes and the consequent loss of Huguenot support and manpower.

The reign (1715-1774) of Louis XV saw an initial return to peace and prosperity under the regency (1715-1723) of Philip II, Duke of Orléans, whose policies were largely continued (1726-1743) by Cardinal Fleury, prime minister in all but name, renewed war with the Empire (1733-1735 and 1740-1748) being fought largely in the East. But alliance with the traditional Habsburg enemy (the "Diplomatic Revolution" of 1756) against the rising power of Britain and Prussia led to costly failure in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763).

With the country deeply in debt, Louis XVI permitted the radical reforms of Turgot and Malesherbes, but noble disaffection led to Turgot's dismissal and Malesherbes' resignation in 1776. They were replaced by Jacques Necker. Louis supported the American Revolution in 1778, but in the Treaty of Paris (1783), the French gained little except an addition to the country's enormous debt. Necker had resigned in 1781 to be replaced by Calonne and Brienne, before being restored in 1788.

On the eve of the French Revolution of 1789, France was in a profound institutional and financial crisis, but the ideas of the Enlightenment had begun to permeate the educated classes of society.

On 1792 September 21 the French monarchy was effectively abolished by the proclamation of the French First Republic




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