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Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground

Michael Kwass

7 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0674726839 / ISBN 13: 9780674726833
Published by Harvard University Press
New Condition: New Hardcover
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of ...

Publisher: Harvard University Press

Binding: Hardback

Book Condition: New

About this title

Synopsis:

Louis Mandrin led a gang of bandits who brazenly smuggled contraband into eighteenth-century France. Michael Kwass brings new life to the legend of this Gallic Robin Hood and the thriving underworld he helped to create. Decades before the storming of the Bastille, surging world trade excited a revolution in consumption that transformed the French kingdom. Contraband" exposes the dark side of this early phase of globalization, revealing hidden connections between illicit commerce, criminality, and popular revolt. France's economic system was tailor-made for an enterprising outlaw like Mandrin. As French subjects began to crave colonial products, Louis XIV lined the royal coffers by imposing a state monopoly on tobacco from America and an embargo on brilliantly colored calico cloth from India. Vigorous black markets arose through which traffickers fed these exotic goods to eager French consumers. Flouting the law with unparalleled panache, Mandrin captured widespread public attention to become a symbol of a defiant underground. This furtive economy generated violent clashes between gangs of smugglers and customs agents in the borderlands. Eventually, Mandrin was captured by French troops and put to death in a brutal public execution intended to demonstrate the king's absolute authority. But the spectacle only cemented Mandrin's status as a rebel folk hero in an age of mounting discontent. Amid cycles of underground rebellion and agonizing penal repression, the memory of Mandrin inspired ordinary subjects and Enlightenment philosophers alike to challenge royal power and forge a movement for radical political change.

Review:

Michael Kwass s "Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground" is a striking and novel biography of the celebrated smuggler and bandit, Louis Mandrin. Drawing ingeniously on both microhistory and global history, Kwass explores wide-ranging, vivid, and often unexpected facets of an eighteenth-century life and shows how that life was rampantly embroidered in the public sphere. --Colin Jones, author of "The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to Napoleon""

(An) excellent book (...) Thanks to the strength of the legend, and the intrinsic excitement of this real-life crime story, Mandrin remains well known in France.(...) Kwass does add new details to the story, and tells it well, but the greatest strength of Contraband lies in its convincing use of Mandrin to explain how France s Ancien Regime fell apart. (...) Over the past twenty years, as historians have come to recognise the importance of early globalisation, they have struggled to link it to the political upheavals of the 18th century. In Contraband, Micheal Kwass has provided one of the strongest and most satisfying models of how the connection worked. -- London Review of Books

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