Echantillon de l'Oeconomie raffinée[N.p., 3 May, 1697].

MAHIEU M. de (1697)


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4to (190 x 150mm). [4]ff. Nineteenth-century red morocco by Chambolle-Duru of Paris, title lettered in gilt on spine, elaborate gilt dentelles with dolphin motif, marbled endpapers, a.e.g. 

[N.p., 3 May, 1697]. 

Extremely rare; an impressive survival of a piece of bilingual, administrative ephemera, issued in 1697 to enable the survey of newly acquired French territories at the end of the Nine Years' War (1688-1697).  We have found only one copy recorded, at Harvard (Goldsmith-Kress, 3459.1). 

Issued by the Royal Intendant to Louis XIV, this pamphlet instructs local justices to gather information on territories newly under their jurisdiction, using the list of 26 questions provided, arranged in two columns; one with questions in French, and one in German; possibly Luxembourgish, which has West Germanic roots. They are extremely detailed and quite wide-ranging, and revealing of the structural, geographical, but above all economic priorities behind the survey. Questions concern the size of each territory, the number of towns, villages and fiefdoms they encompass, along with the names of the noble families that reside there and the nature of their noble status (inherited, awarded, married into) and their property; the nature of local justice and administrative systems (including in no.24, places of torture) and the quality of local officers; the type of land in the area - arable, empty, woodland - and the livestock, both domestic and for hunting and fishing; the climate and landscape (the names of principal mountains, rivers, lakes); the details of local manufacture (including the character of local workers - hard-working or lazy?) as well as any natural resources being quarried or mined; and so on.

A significant proportion of these questions concern trade, foreign and domestic, and foreign trade within the territory: question 14 asks about the number of ports, fairs and markets, when they happen and for how long, and the details of customs and tax; question 15 concerns access for foreign merchants, and the facilitation of their trade; question 16 similarly asks how many foreign merchants regularly come, the money that enters, and where and how it leaves, in comparison with previous years; question 18 considers the practicalities, requesting information on the state of the larger roads between towns and villages, where such routes pass through and the distances between those places, measured in acres. Similarly, question 19 concerns key rivers and water routes - their courses, where they pass through and meet the sea, if they are navigable or, crucially, fit to be made so. 

Question 5 concerns remarkable things that can be seen, or that have happened in each place; a passing nod, perhaps, to the local culture and history of newly acquired territories.

This survey is a prime example of the burgeoning bureaucratic machine and growing systems of information management that developed in France under Louis XIV. The extensive military campaigns pursued by the Sun King during his reign prompted an 'information explosion' in the latter half of the seventeenth century, which in turn encouraged a transformation in the army's 'information management practices...effectively creating an information state in early modern France' (Fulton, 3). Surveys such as this one were central to an understanding of newly acquired territories, gathering information in order to allow greater control and 'to form a comprehensive database of demographics and commercial capabilities of France and its colonies' (Fulton, 24). 

The manner in which such information was gathered and organised was closely managed, as indicated here; 'those who have maps of their territories are requested to have copies made as soon as possible, and attach them here', and those conducting the survey are specifically asked to record answers to these questions in a separate notebook. 

M. de Mahieu, named here as the Intendant to whom the Justiciers conducting these surveys should report is likely Jean Mahieu (fl. 1680-1700), himself seemingly a bureaucratic force par excellence in Louis XIV's administrative machine. Extant archival holdings relating to him are predominantly evidence of his organisational prowess in the service of the crown; records of his role as an intendant in Luxembourg - which had been invaded by the French in 1684 - in the 1680s and 1690s, reporting to the French Contrôleur général, list a series of inquiries and investigations he conducted into local government and administrative and local affairs (see Smedley-Weil, below). "Jean Mahieu had served as a commissaire des guerres, and then as intendant, during the War of the League of Augsburg, at the beginning of which he wrote to the department to describe how he was implementing everything necessary to move some munitions. He noted the steps he took, stressing his orders but also his initiative' (Fulton, 204). 

The timing of the present survey is notable; dated 3rd May, 1697, the Treaty of Ryswick that ended the Nine Years' War was finalised in September of the same year. That this was possibly issued during Mahieu's time as intendant in Luxembourg might explain the two languages used here; unsurprisingly, under Louis XIV French became the principal national language of the country, but Luxembourgish, which has Germanic roots, was still the principal vernacular tongue. Invaded and conquered by France in 1684, Luxembourg was handed back to the Spanish under the terms of the Treaty of Ryswick, only four months after this survey was issued

Goldsmith-Kress, 3459.1. 

R. Fulton, 'Managing an Information Explosion: civilian administration and the army of Louis XIV, 1661-1701', PhD Thesis, Northern Illinois University (2016). A. S. Weil, 'Correspondance des intendants', Archives Nationales open access (

[OCLC: Harvard University only]. 

Stock Code: 245847

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