- Paperback: 232 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press (12 Oct. 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 052142528X
- ISBN-13: 978-0521425285
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.3 x 22.8 cm
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 381,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- See Complete Table of Contents
The European Nobility, 1400-1800 (New Approaches to European History) Paperback – 12 Oct 2010
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'… a challenging new synthesis to explain the experience of the nobility of western Europe in the early modern era …'. English Historical Review
This book is the first comprehensive history of the European nobility between the Renaissance and the French Revolution. Designed to introduce students and non-specialists to the subject, it explains all the principal themes and problems in an authoritative and accessible manner.See all Product description
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)
Prior to 1450
Nobles were generally inheritors of titles. They were viewed as having superior qualities over commoners. They deserved respect and in return they used their aptitude for protecting and commanding. They felt that they must be freed of cares of daily lives to fulfill their station in life. Nobles generally paid no taxes. They provided the military for the king. They collected taxes for themselves, rents from serfs who could sell their land, and got 3-4 days per week labor from the peasants. Money was rarely used, barter was common. Priests were the only educated class and provided administrators for the government. Land ownership was the most coveted possession. Knights were awarded titles and replaced those who died in battle or from disease.
University educated nobles replaced priests and became a faster way to wealth than rewards from battle. They were receptive to Humanist ideas. Living off the estate was no longer acceptable when others ate imported foods and dressed elaborately. Castles no longer provided protection and country estates allowed privacy and nature could be tamed by landscaping.
Kings became stronger with larger armies and holdings. Kings and nobles sold land and possessions to finance wars. Litigation started to be accepted as a way to resolve disputes instead of wars.
Colonies contributed to the king's wealth while nobles invested in trading companies and businesses. Money replaced land as the dominate force. Peasants became soldiers while nobles moved to Court. Power moved from local to political influence. A wide gap developed between rich and poor nobles while merchants and guild members became equal to both groups. Titles no longer defined classes.
The Industrial Revolution allowed clothing to blur the lines between nobles and the middle class. Nobles were selling their land so they could flaunt their wealth. Most borrowed until they were bankrupt. Countries that kept their peasants poor had a small tax base and fell behind. Motivated workers produced more so nobles saw the advantage of reforming the remaining feudal system.
Primarily, he tackles the idea of the decline of the nobility, and shows that instead of declining, the nobility weathered the Early Modern period by being resilient and adaptable -- though the group was fundamentally changed, it still remained strong.
That is the main thrust of the book, and he considers their resiliency in aspects of the make-up of the nobility, their wealth and economics, their politics, and their involvement in culture. He concludes with an brief analysis of the effects of the French Revolution on the group, and how it contributed to the fundamental change the nobility underwent, from privileged order to ruling class.
This is a readable, interesting book. The only problem lies in a strong repetitiveness. I have no complaints about the book's organization, but it in some ways contributes to this, and Dewald ends up having to repeat conclusions he made just pages before. Sometimes the repetition becomes quite tedious, but as a whole, the book remains interesting and readable.