Some Reasons for the Fronde: the Revolutionary Days in Paris in 1648

  • Roland Mousnier


The Days of the Barricades in Paris of 26, 27, and 28 August 1648 transformed a latent civil war into a situation of acute crisis. Fairly well known as a sequence of events, these journées révolutionnaires are only poorly understood as to their causes. Historians have been concerned above all with narrative accounts, which describe events without attempting to explain them.1 They have extracted a fairly accurate account of these colourful events from confused and often contradictory sources. But they never approach them in a real spirit of historical enquiry. They summarise texts with care, but without seeking to present the realities which the words themselves should evoke. They neglect to study the words which were actually used, which in themselves are so revealing and which warrant very careful examination. Political and administrative institutions, economic evidence, social and religious developments and changes in the general sensibility have been neglected, although these alone enable us to understand the words and actions of the period and to relate them to the total situation of the realm and the structure and life of French society at that time. Historians have moreover tended to see in the texts factors which seemed to them to correspond with their own political predilections, as citizens enamoured of liberal parliamentary regimes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ignoring what was important to men of the seventeenth century, through a failure to envisage the society of the age and the mind of its contemporaries.


  1. 2.
    (i) Mme de Motteville, Mémoires (Paris, 1891) II. Mme de Motteville was a femme de chambre of Anne of Austria who remained inside the Palais-Royal and who therefore saw a great many of the principal persons involved. She compiled her Mémoires from notes made from day to day. They are generally unemotional in tone, except for a tendency to denigrate the queen. (ii) Relation anonyme, B.N. ms. fr. 20290. This account emanates from a military person involved in the actual street fighting. (iii) Marie Dubois (a valet de chambre of the king), Relation, ed. Feillet, in Revue des sociétés savantes, II (1865) pp. 324–37. (iv) Other texts, such as the Journal of Jean Vallier, were compiled long after the events, and are of considerably less value.Google Scholar
  2. 5.
    (i) Registres de l’Hôtel de Ville de Paris pendant la Fronde, ed. Le Roux de Lincy and Douet d’Arcq, 3 vols (Paris, 1846) pp. 1–41. (ii) de Retz, Mémoires, ed. Grands Ecrivains de la France. (iii) Guy Joly, Mémoires, ed. Michaud-Poujoulat. (iv) Aimé de Gaignières, ‘Gaignières, ses correspondents, etc.’. ed. C. de Grandmaison, in Bibliothèque de l’Ecole de Chartes, Vol. II (1890); letter of 28 August, pp. 577–80.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    R. Fages, Comité des travaux historiques et scientifiques, Section hist, et philol. (1907) pp. 104–13.Google Scholar
  4. 44.
    R. Mousnier, ‘Le Conseil du Roi de la Mort de Henri IV au gouvernement personnel de Louis XIV’, in Etudes d’Histoire moderne et contemporaine, I (1947) pp. 29–67; also, La Vénalité des offices sous Henri N et Louis XIII (Paris, 1945) Livre III, Chapter IV.Google Scholar
  5. 50.
    A. de Saint-Julien and G. Bienaymé, Les droits d’entrée et d’octroi à Paris depuis le douzième siècle (Paris, 1886).Google Scholar
  6. 64.
    Registres de l’Hôtel de Ville, pp. 1–10; P. Robiquet, Organisation municipale de Paris; G. Picot, ‘Recherches sur les quartiniers’, in Soc. d’hist. de Paris et de I’lle de France (1875) p. 132 and p. 145;Google Scholar
  7. C. Normand, La Bourgeoisie française au XVIIe siècle (Paris, 1908) p. 327.Google Scholar
  8. 65.
    R. Allier, La Cabale des Dévôts (Paris, 1902).Google Scholar

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© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Roland Mousnier

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