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By Janine Garrisson

A masterful new survey of sixteenth-century France which examines the vicissitudes of the French monarchy through the Italian Wars and the Wars of faith. It explores how the advances made lower than a succession of robust kings from Charles VIII to Henri II created tensions in conventional society which mixed with monetary difficulties and rising spiritual divisions to convey the dominion as regards to disintegration less than a sequence of susceptible kings from Francois II to Henri III. The political main issue culminated in France's first succession clash for hundreds of years, yet was once resolved via Henri IV's well timed reconnection of dynastic legitimism with non secular orthodoxy.

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And even if the masters of grazing and ploughland felt the impact of poor harvests in the shape of lower income in kind (or even in cash if their land was rented out), they had other resources. But the peasants had nothing else to fall back on. Only those with adequate holdings (about 15 hectares in the north, or 25 in the south) were able to survive a year or more of poor harvests without borrowing. Such tenants or husbandmen were PEASANT LIFE 27 increasingly set apart from the wretched have-nots, forming a kind of rural bourgeoisie between the worlds of the city and the country.

For the most part newcomers to the towns where they worked, they were not integrated into the artisan traditions. And this combination, as Natalie Zemon Davis has shown in the case of Lyon, gave them a real class-consciousness which led them to organise and even to strike in vindication of their grievances. Such men swelled the ranks of the Reformers. The towns saw the development of the 'newsletters', flysheets informing the public about the great events of the kingdom and the Continent. Often enough these widely circulated and cheaply produced sheets, illustrated with arresting woodcuts, were attempts by those in power to silence false rumours or reap the full glory of some minor triumph.

Lyons, whose commercial role developed so dramatically in the later fifteenth century, obtained its first press in 14 73 thanks to the entrepreneurial skills of Barthelemy Buyer, who financed and probably selected the first publications. The geography of French printing around 1500 thus offers a fair reflection of the kingdom's urban framework. The main centres were Paris, Lyon and Rouen, followed by Poitiers, Toulouse, Caen, Tours, Orleans, Rennes, Nantes, Albi, Grenoble, Provins, Troyes, Dijon, Chalons-sur-Marne, Angouleme, Limoges and Angers.

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