The Navy and Government in Early Modern France, 1572-1661

The Navy and Government in Early Modern France, 1572-1661

Alan James

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The role of the navy as an instrument of royal power in France, C16/C17, with a reappraisal of Richelieu's performance as Grand-Master of Navigation.
The navy played a central part in the major military and political developments of sixteenth and seventeenth century France. This study traces its role as an instrument of royal power from the sixteenth century Wars of Religion to 1661, the beginning of the reign of Louis XIV, the Sun King; in the process it sheds light on many familiar themes of early modern French history. Throughout the period, the crown faced opposition at sea from the Huguenots and from others within France, while a complex web of legal jurisdictions protected local interests and traditions of virtual independence from Paris, while the nobility also pursued a largely unresearched interest in maritime affairs.
It is within this context that the career of Cardinal Richelieu, as Grand-Master of Navigation, is re-examined. In an age often characterised by 'rising absolutism' or 'military revolution', he emerges as largely successful in maintaining the navy's strength at sea, though less through major institutional innovations or military reforms than by adhering to traditional methods of government, personal politics, and finance.
ALAN JAMES is a lecturer in the Department of War Studies, King's College London.


A most welcome addition to the growing number of naval histories of early modern Europe. THE HISTORIAN
A first-rate study of early military history that also casts considerable light on the nature of absolutism. HISTORY
A well researched study of the French navy in what was, until now, an obscure and neglected period of its history. MARINER'S MIRROR
Recommended. CHOICE
An excellent work of scholarship which makes its case convincingly. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF MARITIME HISTORY
A refreshingly balanced and well researched assessment of Richelieu's naval program, and an interesting and valuable contribution to a much-neglected aspect of early modern French history. AMERICAN HISTORICAL REVIEW

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