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date: 07 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The nobility became a widely despised target of French revolutionaries despite its own lack of unity and its general openness to reform. The strength of the antipathy toward nobility is explained in part by the debates about noble identity that had coursed through French culture for much of the eighteenth century. Those debates brought forth conflicting perspectives, as some sought to revive and expand while others sought to attenuate noble power, standing, and influence. Perhaps the most important consequence of these debates, however, was to reveal the uncertain and contested foundations of noble pre-eminence—a cultural ambiguity that contrasted sharply, and troublingly, with noble assertions of political solidarity in 1788–9.

Keywords: Nobility, honour, luxury, patriotism, society of orders, venality

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