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From the Enlightenment to Business Models. Episode 8 A. Who moved the ways of the enlightenment. France.

Have a beautiful day. I am eager to share all the work-in-progress knowledge material that I prepared for you last week.

Find below our slides content about the French Historical background from the year 481, in which the Merovingian dynasty began; to the year 1789, in which the French Revolution occurred during the kingdom of Louis XVI.

I encourage you to read the last set of slides about France’s history and this nation’s main events. Try to search for additional information that could help you to understand a bit more about what we provide. Particularly, put attention to the main issues in terms of economics, social stratification, the feudal system, and why the French Monarchies were economically in trouble before the French Revolution of 1789. A hint: the political economic system of Louis XVI at the end of the 18th remained basically with the same principles of the feudal middle ages. Despite that the merchant economy was operating in France, the philosophy of political-economic decision-making in relation to the landowners’ relationship with peasants was still in feudalism or if you wish to be fair, in a semi-feudalism stage.

As promised last Friday, I am adding today, the whole strategic analysis of French History, with all my reflections, included, from the point of view of a corporate strategist.

Our hypothesis: The French Revolution was a violent eruption reaction towards a feudalist regime that started with the Carolingian Dynasty.
Several historians and studious of economic changes have categorized the French revolution into different levels. When we land into the political-economy reasons, usually all of them explain it from the point of view of a contrast between an older regime and a new one that was trying to be implemented. We think it is too general or vane to see the Enlightenment season (17th-18th centuries) under a dialectic vision.

Other economist-historians are brutally direct: they explain it, because of the absolutism of Louis XVI, which started with the premises of Charlemagne and continued generation by generation to the Bourbon rulers of France. For us, as Eleonora Escalante Strategy, it was a sum of the latter reason, plus many centuries of wrong corporate strategy decision-making at the rulers level. It was a season in which the kings were privileging the wrong priorities: wars, the royal grandeur in the monarchy, the overseas French expansion using slaves and protectionism, and finally the kings´ personal desire to build their own majestic private infrastructure. Raising taxes for paying wars, and leveraging a tremendous amount of those taxes from the majority of the population who was living in precarious poverty levels (almost a serfdom-feudalist scheme); under the context of a warfare continuum, was simply a recipe for disaster. Joel Felix (1) has characterized the 17th-18th century in France with the following aspects. I have added the last 2 additional factors from my own analysis signaled with an asterisk (*):

  1. The tyranny of the bread: Families in France were required to feed themselves with bread, which was less expensive than meat or fresh fish, or other proteins. A family of 5 needed at least 2 kilograms of wheat flour per day. Around 25% of France’s surface area was utilized in wheat growing. The exhaustion of the soil forced the landlords and peasants to stop to use the land one year out of every 2 or 3 years. Given the legacy of feudalism, around 50% of French land used for wheat production was owned by the nobles and the clergy, and these 2 groups enjoyed the privilege of tax exemptions. The rest of the farms used for growing wheat belonged to the minimum existing middle class and the peasantry, who paid most of the taxes: feudal, seigneurial, church´s tithe, and other royal taxes. The latter situation explains why agriculture was immersed in a subsistence level of production, apart from low yields, and a lack of enough working capital to maximize production.
  2. Cycles of famine and fluctuation of agricultural prices: Given the harsh conditions of weather that affected harvests (for example, the year 1708-1709), when there wasn´t enough supply of grains every year. Then, of course, with the lack of good supply, the prices went up. Further, in the middle of scarcity, great famines occurred, triggering mortality. Historians have recorded three main widespread famine periods: 1660-1661, at the start of Louis XIV’s kingdom; 1693-1694, the most terrible; and the famine of the cold winter 1709-1710. The degree of availability of grains caused a fluctuation in agricultural prices. From 1715 (Louis XV period) until the early 19th century, France experienced a rise in prices, which suggests a combination of poor yield harvests, not enough supply for the existing demand, and taxes reforms undertaken by the government that affected the majorities who weren´t able to cover the expenses for food.
  3. Taxes policies from the royal finance bureau. The periods of the Bourbon kings were characterized by several finance Ministers or finance royal comptrollers who tried to fix the situation of the tax schemes. Nevertheless, since the trend of these two centuries was directed to protect the new mercantilist policies (given the French growth of exports-imports from overseas), then trade was favored over domestic agriculture. Even, 100 years before, Minister Colbert (1661-1683) tried to reduce direct taxes on the peasantry, but then the re-sellers or intermediaries of grain were affected in their profits.  Also, regardless of the fiscal policy, France never stopped to raise taxes for wars. And wars were permanently requesting funds, that came in form of taxation from the population: The never-ending tax burden collection for war doubled from 1670 to 1700.
  4. State Intervention. In the French case, commercial policies to control trade and consumption did not concern foreign and colonial trade only, but also internal trade. Consecutive interdictions existed for crucial commodities, to prevent speculation, or to prevent famine. Since France focused its value production proposition on high-quality luxury goods made with local raw materials or from raw materials imported from Asia; then the production and export of manufactured goods led to an impressive set of regulations and monopolies to grant quality and sustain the local producers.  Between 1683 to 1753, more than 1000 official regulations governing manufacturing were issued, and at least 500 more followed in the second half of the 18th century.
  5. The emergence of the non-agriculture sectors and migration stimulus. During these two centuries, the most important development of the French economy was the arrival of the industrial development, called royal manufacturers, supported by the state.  Under Minister Colbert’s regime (1683) there were 113 enterprises, and it grew to 243 in 1750. In addition, with the development of high-quality artisanal production, migration was triggered between cities, and even from remote regions to urban dwellings. With the wars, the incentive to produce and modernize all the warfare equipment, using metals, iron, and others composition metal alloys; helped to support the cast iron and weapon/metals manufacturing industry. Paper and glass factories, tanneries, forges, and textiles grew substantially to cover the export demand for other North European Countries and the French Atlantic Triangle. Clothes, along with rent, heat, and bread remained the largest sources of consumer spending in France. Textiles also held a dominant position in domestic supply and foreign trade. In the mid-18th century, high-quality fabrics made up more than 40% of French exports.
  6. French Foreign Trade expanded during the 18th century. Between 1735-1780, the Golden Age of French International Commerce occurred. Regardless of the Seven Years´ War and the American War of Independence. The Antilles, since the times of Cardinal Richelieu’s regency, gave French merchants a new position in international commerce.  Traditionally France was an exporter of good wines, brandies, fruits, and salt with the Nordics. Clothes and textiles from the north and west of France to the Iberian countries. Then with the extension of Atlantic trade, France commenced trading with the Newfoundland fisheries. Later, when France was freed from Dutch domination for the supply of sugar from the American islands, then France became the greatest re-exporter (intermediary) of colonial goods in Europe. And this was the basis for their new commercial empire. After the year 1700, the french devoted time and resources to sugarcane cultivation on the French Saint Dominique Island. This move (Haiti) of sugar production was spectacular, given their great competitive price, which was based on the cheap slave laborers carried from Africa.  
  7. France was the intermediary storehouse for Northern Europe (2). There exist evidence records of the activities that grew exponentially in the main French ports during the 17th and 18th centuries. Bordeaux became the greatest port for the Baltic region, reselling sugar, coffee, and indigo that was produced in America. The trade included other destinations: Levant, Hamburg, Amsterdam, and other trading spots in Northern Europe. Additionally, the French re-exports from Asia to the Antilles by way of the slave trade also represented an important portion of commerce. Nevertheless, it was always America that guided French commercial growth, from the 18th midcentury to the eve of the American Revolution.
  8. A brutally efficient slave system (*). More than 12 million African slaves were captured, transported, and sold in different locations of the transatlantic triangle trade. It is called also the French Atlantic Triangle (3). Even though the French monarchy wasn´t leading the volume of the slave trade, its third position is well acknowledged by historians.  To grow commerce using the foundation of cheap inhuman labor (negroes who were considered as animals), was a strategic core resource used by the European empires, not just to implement economic policies aimed at increasing the countries´ wealth; but trading slaves was good business for all who were involved in its value chain (including the logistics). To trade slaves was at that time an extremely profitable investment.
  9. Lack of good re-investment priorities (*). The Bourbons invested all their wealth in the construction of their own castles and residences. The luxurious splendor of their lavish cravings was built by the best French leading architects, painters, and sculptors. Versailles was built in the time of Louis XIV when the king moved his government in 1682 while it was still under construction. The royal income coming from taxes was utilized for these mega-oeuvres, and then for financing the wars (continental and overseas Europe) which were as important for their international trading strategy.
  10. The wars of religion probably impacted more than we think (*). If you want to read more about these religious conflicts click here: French Wars of Religion. We also believe that the Thirty years’ war (1618-1648) surfaced in between other causes because the existing intolerance between Catholics and Protestants continued. It is being recorded by historians that as many as 4 million people may have died in the French Wars of Religion. An example of the cruelty during this period of time against the Protestant Huguenots was shown in the massacre of Saint Bartholomew. We believe that many of the descendants and relatives of the protestant victims could have been resenting those actions and passed them from generation to generation until these descendants arrived into power, and then, they were able to take the revengeful destiny on Louis XVI and other Catholic leaders in the French Revolution and beyond. The eight dates of the Civil French Wars of Religion are listed below.
  • 1st War: 1562-1563
  • 2nd War: 1567-1568
  • 3rd War: 1568-1570
  • 4th War: 1572-1573
  • 5th War: 1574-1576
  • 6th War: 1576-1577
  • 7th War: 1579-1580
  • 8th War (War of the Three Henrys): 1585-1589
  • Armed conflict continued through 1598 when it was concluded by the Edict of Nantes.

Look the following slides about the topic of slavery and international trade:

The Wars Fought by France in the 17th and 18th centuries were a core impediment to financial growth.
Between 1557 to 1789, France participated actively in 37 conflicts, which leave us with approximately 4 wars every 25 years. The character of these wars was not only in Continental Europe, but also outside, in diverse locations as near as the English Channel, to Algiers, Tunis, Chios, Tripoli, Senegal, Siam, Asia, Africa, Mississippi River in North America, Canada (Nova Scotia), West Indies region, West Africa, Morocco, Corsica, Balearic Islands, Antilles, etc.

The most important wars were: The Anglo French Wars (in different periods); the local French Wars of religion (1562-1628), under Catherine de Medici´s three king sons; The Franco-Spanish Wars (1562-1563); 1635-1659); the Thirty Years War (1618-1648); the Anglo-Dutch wars; the Franco-Dutch war (1672-1678); the French-Senegalese conquest (as of 1659); French Algerian War (1681-1688); King William´s war (1688-1697);  The French-Iroquois conquest (17th century); the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714); War of Quadruple Alliance (1718-1720); Fox Wars in America (1712-1733);  War of the Polish Succession (1733-1735); French of Austrian Succession (1740-1748); Father Le Loutre´s War (1749-1755); the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763); The last Anglo-French war (1778-1783) in parallel to the American Revolutionary War (the 1780s); and finally the French conquest of Corsica (1768-1770).

Catherine De Medici was interpreted by actress Megan Follows at The Reign TV drama series. Illustrative and non-commercial video. Used for educational use. Utilized only informatively for the public good.

The Bourbons’ legacy before the French Revolution.
The House of Bourbon kings’ dynasty, which began with Henry IV of Navarre (1589-1610) to Louis XVI (who reigned between 1774-1792) was characterized by a tumultuous period of constant wars and conflicts. All those kings weren´t, in reality, leading the country, but their regents and financial ministers: Cardinal Richelieu, Cardinal Mazarin, Phillipe II duke D´Orleans, Cardinal Fleury, Nicolas Fouquet, Colbert, and the last finance ministers Turgot, Necker and Calonne. A country with internal domestic difficulties, that was involved in warfare all the time, was trying to step towards a liberal-trade economy, under a philosophy of feudalism that still existed in the mindset of the kings and administrators. Not even the best economist could help the Bourbons. Their priorities were not in favor of the most needed of France population, but to build the splendor of their own personal infrastructure luxury and privileges, using the clergy religion that was being rebuked by the Enlightenment; meanwhile, the competition of other empires was growing in America (England and Spain). No one really knows if the Bourbons were not really inquisitive enough in Territorial France anymore, since America´s promise was beyond praise and beauty; but it is during the European Colonialism in America, that we can observe the distance between the Bourbons and their lack of participation in offering a solution to France main troubles. The enlightenment personages were ahead of time, anticipating the future disgrace of the rulers, they were writing books about it, and they were anticipating the French Revolution. But the lumieres weren´t listened to appropriately. The Bourbon kings were too busy with other priorities, and it was too late then to react, and stop the day in which Louis XVI and his wife were guillotined.

Out of any proof, sometimes I think the Bourbons’ connections with Spain, probably would have saved Louis XVI, if at least he would have listened to the French Enlightenment lumieres one hundred years before.

Next Friday, we will continue exploring the profiles of the Enlightenment figures of France. The next topic is “Who moved the ways of the Enlightenment. France Section II. The French Lumieres”.

Ocean Musical Section

 A week has happened since our last publication. All of us are voyaging toward Cape Horn. Look at our position in the Ocean Race Tracker at the moment of this publication ( March 20th, 16:00 UTC). Illustrative and non-commercial image. Used for educational use. Utilized only informatively for the public good.

My boat (Eleonora Escalante Strategy) is racing in conjunction with Holcim-PRB, Malizia, Biotherm, and 11th Hour Racing. We all have been working a lot, to repair and refurbish our equipment. Particularly 11th Hour Racing team has been extremely busy doing amends. Look at the video below. The range of velocity of the wind is between 15 to 25 knots of wind.  All of us are moving together, with a separation of just 2 to 3 nautical miles.
It is an honor to sail together, not only because all of us are taking care of each other on our route to safe lands in Brazil; but also because in parallel, our lesson for economic development, should always be to try to be together. To wait for the ones who are at a disadvantage, no matter what: is an impeccable distinction for all of us on the planet. To cross uncertain waters when we cooperate and care for each other is a subject of ethical stature. Only together we will be able to avoid disasters (such as the French Revolution), only if we can listen to those who are trying to make this world a better place for all. All our equipment and vessels (our planet) must be repaired promptly and constantly, with our most outstanding genius. Not leaving anyone behind.
The compilation of music that we have chosen for you today is purely for chill-out and relaxing in a coffee house. It is a mix of oldies and contemporary french cafe lounge music. Courtesy of Music Brokers Youtube Channel.

Illustrative and non-commercial video. Used for educational use. Utilized only informatively for the public good.
A beautiful day in Paris! Illustrative and non-commercial video. Used for educational use. Utilized only informatively for the public good.

See you next Friday with the uploading of the profiles of the French Lumieres. I will post the main figures of the French Enlightenment, which are numerous, but I will select the most relevant profiles beyond Descartes, Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau. There are many french philosophes or luminaires, which will be transferred accordingly. Thank you and blessings for reading to me.

Leg 3 is in full movement towards Itajai. Photo Source:

Sources of reference are utilized today. All are listed on the slides.
(1) Doyle, William. “Old Regime France: 1648-1788 (Short Oxford History of France)” 1st Edition.  



Disclaimer: Illustrations in Watercolor are painted by Eleonora Escalante. Other types of illustrations or videos (which are not mine) are used for educational purposes ONLY.  All are used as Illustrative and non-commercial images. Utilized only informatively for the public good. Nevertheless, most of this blog’s pictures, images, or videos are not mine. I do not own any of the lovely photos or images posted unless otherwise stated.

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