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Lecture | CMGI Brown Bag Seminar

Understanding an Unlikely Success Story: French Cloth and Asian Markets, 1683–1700

Tuesday 5 March 2024
CMGI Brown Bag Seminars 2023-2024
Johan Huizinga
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Conference room (2.60)

This paper introduces my current Marie Curie project, which revisits longstanding debates on the woollen cloth industry of the Languedoc in southern France. This industry was championed up to 1683 by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV’s eminent minister, and would go on to underpin France’s flourishing trade with the Ottoman Empire in the eighteenth century. What happened between Colbert’s interventions and the golden age of Franco-Ottoman trade has received very little attention, however, despite the fact this was precisely the period when Colbert’s factories – on the verge of collapse on his death in 1683 – transformed into flourishing industrial enterprises that spurred the province’s economic success. My paper introduces the sources with which I am working and situates the Languedocian cloth industry within the broader institutional frameworks and geopolitical developments that were shaping production and trade in this period. In the process, I suggest that the industry’s dramatic change in fortunes stems at least in part from the fact that the factories were producing cloth for markets across Asia, not just the Ottoman Empire.

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