The Land and the Loom

Peasants and Profit in Northern France, 1680–1800

The Land and the Loom

Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: Published: February 1993

Author: Liana Vardi

History > European History

In the modern imagination the peasant survives as a creature of the land, suspicious of the outside world and resistant to change, either the repository of pristine innocence and virtue or the manifestation of everything nasty, brutish, and at best dull. The Land and the Loom replaces this picture with a richly textured, deeply researched portrait of the peasant's life and world in northern France in the early modern period.
Drawing on evidence culled from parish registers, notarial records, and judicial archives, Liana Vardi outlines the development of the linen weaving trade in Montigny and details the local peasants' participation. The peasants that emerge from her study are not the figures of tradition, driven solely by symbolic attachment to the land and unreasonably devoted to village solidarities. Instead they reveal remarkable flexibility and diversity, not only improving farming methods and raising yields during the eighteenth century, but also using land to finance investments in industry and to develop local business, far-flung commercial networks and complex credit mechanisms. The eighteenth-century French countryside appears as a region and time of capitalist experimentation, cut short by pre-Revolutionary and Revolutionary crises.
Meticulously documented, broadly interpretive, and beautifully written, this fascinating book will permenantly alter conventional perceptions of peasant life and rural industry and, ultimately, the way ordinary people are seen in seemingly distant times and places.


“Vardi’s analysis of the rise and fall of the merchant-weavers focuses attention on a neglected group of merchants and makes an important contribution to our understanding of economic organization.” — Gay L. Gullickson, Journal of Economic History

"A superb book, one that admirably fulfills the rarely accomplished goal of detailed local study, that of opening new avenues of understanding about general problems. . . . Vardi has combed the official sources, parish registers, and above all, notarial records for her village, for all they are worth. We move into this world with these records. . . . But she has done deep original research well beyond her village, reconstructing the networks of the trade and the locales of manufacturing over the whole of the Cambrésis. It is an impressive achievement." — Christopher H. Johnson, Wayne State University

"This is a fine piece of work that will significantly shape the agenda for research on the character of rural life, on the penetration of capitalism, and on the nature of relations between town and country. Vardi offers a more complex and demanding conception of the peasant economy, and of peasant culture. Her work will not only stimulate historical revision; it will also chasten certain tendencies in sociology and anthropology to distill peasant life in a perilously ethereal way." — Steven Laurence Kaplan, Cornell University


Availability: In stock
Price: $69.95

Open Access