By Michael Kwass

Louis Mandrin led a gang of bandits who openly smuggled contraband into eighteenth-century France. Michael Kwass brings new existence to the legend of this Gallic Robin Hood and the thriving underworld he helped to create. many years sooner than the storming of the Bastille, surging international exchange excited a revolution in intake that remodeled the French state. Contraband exposes the darkish facet of this early part of globalization, revealing hidden connections among illicit trade, illegal activity, and renowned revolt.

France's economy used to be tailored for an enterprising outlaw like Mandrin. As French topics started to crave colonial items, Louis XIV coated the royal coffers by means of enforcing a nation monopoly on tobacco from the USA and an embargo on brilliantly coloured calico fabric from India. energetic black markets arose during which traffickers fed those unique items to keen French shoppers. Flouting the legislation with remarkable panache, Mandrin captured common public consciousness to develop into an emblem of a defiant underground.

This furtive financial system generated violent clashes among gangs of smugglers and customs brokers within the borderlands. ultimately, Mandrin used to be captured via French troops and positioned to loss of life in a brutal public execution meant to illustrate the king's absolute authority. however the spectacle in basic terms cemented Mandrin's prestige as a insurgent folks hero in an age of mounting discontent. Amid cycles of underground uprising and agonizing penal repression, the reminiscence of Mandrin encouraged traditional matters and Enlightenment philosophers alike to problem royal energy and forge a move for radical political change.

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Additional info for Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground

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Insofar as it raises dopamine levels, however, it is also extremely addictive, as any smoker who has grown accustomed to an after-dinner cigarette (or two) can attest. 23 Physical addiction is only one explanation for the success of tobacco, however. At the very least, its psychoactive effects must be placed in a broader cultural context that accounts for the significance that consumers themselves attributed to the plant. And here we bump up against a complicated historical problem. To assess the cultural meaning of goods imported into Europe from overseas, it is important to consider what they meant in their indigenous environments and how those meanings were rejected, modified, or appropriated as they entered metropolitan Europe.

As English economist (and former tax collector) Charles Davenant noted in 1695, “war is quite changed from what it was in the time of our forefathers[,] when in a hasty expedition and a pitched field, the matter was decided by courage. . ”4 Money became increasingly important as more battles were fought on the high seas and in distant colonies as well as on European soil, and as armies ballooned, requiring more intensive training and elaborate supply networks. As the costs of war skyrocketed, European rulers, notably those of continental superpowers France and Britain, scrambled to fi nd new means of raising revenue to pay for current wars and to ser vice mounting public debts generated by previous ones.

Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Réserve QB-201 (75). 30 Contraband depicts a nobleman reclining in an armchair as he grates a “carrot” of tobacco into snuff. If, according to the caption, the powder “awakens the mind and purges the brain”— a medicinal effect— it also served as an object of obsessive personal entertainment, keeping the fashionable gentleman busy doing nothing. ” Tobacco was understood not only to heal but also to amuse by keeping its consumer in an oxymoronic state of active idleness.

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