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Exile, Imprisonment, or Death

A new book by Julian Swann, Professor of Early Modern History in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology and Pro-Vice Master for Research, is published by Oxford University Press today. Exile, Imprisonment, or Death. The Politics of Disgrace in Bourbon France examines the system in Ancien Régime France which led elite subjects to submit to imprisonment or internal exile on the whim of the monarch during the period of 1610-1789.

The book is the first in-depth study of disgrace politics and Professor Swann explores how the system emerged, the conceptions that governed its use and reactions to it.

Professor Swann said: Between the accession of Louis XIII in 1610 and the French Revolution, thousands of French nobles, male and female, including members of royal family and court aristocracy as well as military officers, judges and clergy suffered political disgrace with many spending months or even years behind bars or in internal exile. More remarkably that punishment was almost invariably the result of no more than a written order or verbal command from the king, and yet the victims were prepared to submit to their punishment without a trial or an opportunity to justify their conduct, abandoning their normal lives, leaving families, careers, offices and possessions behind in obedience to their sovereign. 
"Understanding why they were prepared to obey, offers a unique insight into the culture of the French nobility and how the monarchy was able to impose its authority after the horrors of Wars of Religion. Yet the immense personal authority of the king also inspired criticism and the gradual development of opposition to disgrace – as a form of arbitrary punishment – was a crucial contributory factor to the crisis that preceded the French Revolution.”

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Published: 12 January 2017