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    Management and mismanagement of the King’s Forests : social status, professional practice and corruption of mid-ranking forestry officers in the Pyrenean district of Quillan (1670s to 1740s)

    Salje, Elisabeth (2021) Management and mismanagement of the King’s Forests : social status, professional practice and corruption of mid-ranking forestry officers in the Pyrenean district of Quillan (1670s to 1740s). PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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    Abstract

    In traditional accounts, Colbert’s sweeping forestry reforms of the 1660s and 1670s were seen as the epitome of the centralising modernising ‘absolutist’ state. Six decades later, the legal framework that he had established appeared superseded by practices that embodied another set of classic views of ancien régime institutions: dysfunctional and corrupt. This study of mid-ranking forestry officers of a Pyrenean forestry district at the beginning of the eighteenth century deconstructs these orthodoxies. The establishment of Colbert’s new-style forestry institutions in small towns like Quillan proved, ultimately, to be a mixed blessing for their officers. The forestry office might offer professional stability and social prestige, but its gages were hardly sufficient to support their place among the urban oligarchies. A narrow legal specialism and lack of promotion opportunities drove them instead to strengthen existing ties with successful local wood merchants, with whom they professionally cooperated. This generated a highly ambiguous situation because of the inherent risk of collusion and abuse of power. In 1736, excessive misuse of this symbiotic system triggered a Réformation Forestière in the forestry district of Quillan. Analysis of the judicial part of this high-profile governmental intervention uncovered two thought-provoking biases: a clear pro-merchant stance, and the absence of political commitment to contain endemic ‘corruption’ within its ranks. There was more to this tolerant attitude than political pragmatism giving priority to stability over disruption. Outwardly, Réformations were an authority-enhancing exercise in public visibility, re-affirming Colbert’s forestry code as a valid, central frame of reference. Behind this façade, the authorities were happy to apply a decentralised and more effective approach to ordinary forestry business, under the loose watch of the regional head. This allowed maîtrises to continue operating smoothly, regional economies to be kept supplied, and yearly returns from wood sales to flow into the royal coffers.

    Metadata

    Item Type: Thesis
    Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
    Depositing User: Acquisitions And Metadata
    Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2021 14:55
    Last Modified: 06 Dec 2021 14:55
    URI: https://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/46879

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