In this monograph, French economist Florin Aftalion sets out to rectify a great omission in most historical accounts of the French Revolution, namely to look at how economic, and especially monetary forces helped shape the dynamics of the revolution.
“The economic history of revolutionary France is still a neglected area in studies of the revolution of 1789. While some attention has been given to the condition of the peasants, the urban working classes and the financial crisis of the Ancien Régime, there has been a general tendency to regard economic factors as external and somewhat peripheral to the truly political nature of the Revolution. This book is designed to redress the balance, providing a clear, accessible and thought-provoking guide to the economic background to the French Revolution. Professor Aftalion analyzes the policies followed by successive Revolutionary assemblies, examining in detail taxation, the confiscation of church property, the assignats, and the siege economy of the Terror. He shows how decisions taken in 1789 by the Constituent Assembly inevitably led to a deepening financial and economic crisis, and to increasingly radical and disastrous policies. The study is important also for its exposure of many of the economic fallacies propounded both by many Frenchmen at the time, and later by many modern historians.”
It can be combined with a reading of Andrew Dickson White’s Fiat Money Inflation in France, of which the full text can be found here.