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By Florian Schui (auth.)

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Extra info for Early Debates about Industry: Voltaire and His Contemporaries

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Both works are histories: the Essay starts with the beginnings of humanity and ends with the reign of Louis XIII where, as is made clear in the title, The Age of Louis XIV takes over. 33 Both aim at explaining the progress and development of humanity. Among these forms of progress the development of industry plays a prominent role. Voltaire concludes that France owed its industry as well as its commerce – he uses both terms in the sense of categories of economic activities – to Colbert’s efforts.

But as misfortune strikes, Hortense is going to attend the next ball at the side of the dreadful Damis, Clitandre’s rival. In this situation Clitandre decides to enlist the help of his servant Pasquin whom he praises for his ‘industry’ in matters of intrigue and deceit. )16 Here industry is used in the original meaning of individual skilfulness and inventiveness. Voltaire’s use of the term is in no way associated with an economic activity in this period. This use of the term was not an idiosyncrasy of Voltaire.

Its centres were Lyon and Tours, but there was also a significant presence in Languedoc. From 1720 to 1788, Lyon’s silk industry saw a 185 per cent growth and a threefold increase in the number of looms. Even more impressive was the increase in Nîmes where the number of looms in silk manufacturing rose from 459 in 1729, to 1156 in 1761, and to 2571 in 1789. However, the silk industry was significant not only for its particularly strong growth. To fully grasp its economic weight it is helpful to take a more detailed look at the trades and businesses that were attached to this industry.

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