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Parlements and Political Crisis in France under Louis XV: The Besançon Affair, 1757-1761

Julian Swann
The Historical Journal
Vol. 37, No. 4 (Dec., 1994), pp. 803-828
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2639841
Page Count: 26
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Parlements and Political Crisis in France under Louis XV: The Besançon Affair, 1757-1761
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Abstract

The causes and consequences of the quarrels between Louis XV and the parlements in the third quarter of the eighteenth century continue to provoke a lively debate amongst historians. In France, the traditional thesis of a reforming monarchy confronted by the selfish obstructionism of the judiciary has many adherents. However, few Anglo-American scholars favour such an interpretation and some have gone as far as to reject the existence of a crisis altogether. Research is also concentrated upon the consequences of these disputes, and their importance to the development not only of parlementaire constitutionalism, but even of a new political culture. In order to contest these conflicting interpretations, this article takes a fresh look at the Besançon affair of 1757-1761. In one of the most heated political battles of the reign, thirty judges were exiled from the parlements of Besançon, provoking a lively response from the other parlements, headed by that of Paris. By examining the origins of the dispute in Franche-Comté, and the subsequent reaction of both the government and the Parisian magistrates, this article offers a new picture of the causes of crisis and of how judicial politics actually worked.

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