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Peasant life and protestantism in the 16th century “Middle Poitou” at the Revolution

typ_article

French

<10.3406/abpo.1985.3186>

Abstract

Thèse are some conclusions from a thesis mainly upheld by a study of the fiscal and judiciary archives of the Saint-Maixent «élection». At that time, the Plain of Niort and the Bocage of Melle made up « Protestant Moyen-Poitou», an original agrarian and sociological unit, mainly in comparison with neighbouring and still Catholic Gâtine. Hère, regular Clergy, Nobility and prin- cipally Urban Middle Class shared the lands of farms and crofts, giving very little space to Peasantry landed property. Yet, in the XVIIIth Century, share - croppers' liquid assets had been growing, on account of the exports of their wheat and the famous «mules of Poitou». Such a System of complex and long range exchanges, in addition to the nearness of La Rochelle, could have played a great part in the unusual openness of this land to modem views. With a large majority of country people, decimated as early as 1681 by the « Dragonnades», local Protestantism still survived, owing to «Désert» meetings, which had a large following, in spite of a brutal and enduring repression. From ail that resulted a new ruling class, that of rich farmers and millers, who will be among the future acquirers of « National properties » , while finally triumphant Protestantism was taking on the hue of « enlightenment philosophy », thus preparing the massive and lasting adhérence to Republican views, in 1792.

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