Lawyers and Citizens: The Making of a Political Elite in Old Regime France

Front Cover
Oxford University Press, Apr 14, 1994 - History - 304 pages
David Bell's new book traces the development of the French legal profession between the reign of Louis XIV and the French Revolution, showing how lawyers influenced, and were influenced by, the period's passionate political and religious conflicts. Bell analyzes how these key "middling" figures in French society were transformed from the institutional technicians of absolute monarchy into the self-appointed "voices of public opinion," and leaders of opposition political journalism. He describes the birth of an independent legal profession in the late seventeenth century, its alienation from the monarchy under the pressure of religious disputes in the early eighteenth century, and its transformation into a standard-bearer of "enlightened" opinion in the decades before the Revolution. His work illuminates the workings of politics under a theoretically absolute monarchy, and the importance of long-standing constitutional debates for the ideological origins of the Revolution. It also sheds new light on the development of the modern professions, and of the middle classes in France.

What people are saying - Write a review

We haven't found any reviews in the usual places.


The World of the Law
Building an Independent Profession
A Sort of Absolutely Independent Little Republic at the Center of the State
The Seminary of Publicists
The Profession Transformed
The Vanguard of Reform
Bibliographical Note

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 21 - The practices of the law courts had entered in many ways into the pattern of French life. Thus the courts were largely responsible for the notion that every matter of public or private interest was subject to debate and every decision could be appealed from; as also for the opinion that such affairs should be conducted in public and certain formalities observed.

Bibliographic information