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 aspect of this early section of globalization, revealing hidden connections among illicit trade, criminal activity, and renowned revolt.
France's financial system was once tailored for an enterprising outlaw like Mandrin. As French matters started to crave colonial items, Louis XIV coated the royal coffers through enforcing a country monopoly on tobacco from the United States and an embargo on brilliantly coloured calico fabric from India. lively black markets arose wherein traffickers fed those unique items to keen French shoppers. Flouting the legislations with extraordinary panache, Mandrin captured common public consciousness to turn 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 through French troops and positioned to demise in a brutal public execution meant to illustrate the king's absolute authority. however the spectacle basically cemented Mandrin's prestige as a insurgent people hero in an age of mounting discontent. Amid cycles of underground uprising and agonizing penal repression, the reminiscence of Mandrin encouraged traditional topics and Enlightenment philosophers alike to problem royal strength and forge a circulation for radical political change.
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Additional resources for Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground
20 Among the most important global commodities of the early modern period, tobacco and calico—the two goods traded by Mandrin’s armed gang—played central roles in these transformations. Produced on opposite sides of the planet, they converged on Europe to deﬁ ne an emerging consumer culture in which men and women, city-dwellers and country folk, aristocrats and farmers all participated to a greater or lesser degree. Where, how, and by whom were these goods produced? What meanings did consumers ascribe to them, and how did those meanings relate to the wider culture of consumption that was taking shape?
In the Chesapeake colonies of Virginia and Maryland, this year-round labor was ﬁ rst performed by planters’ family members and indentured Irish or English servants, but from the 1680s, as the price of indentured servants rose, planters started buying slaves from Africa, in partic ular from the Bight of Biafra on the western coast. 44 The changing labor conditions in the Chesapeake, which reﬂected a broader reordering of the Atlantic world, serve as a reminder that certain commodities essential to the consumer revolution were soaked in the blood and sweat of slaves.
Britain epitomized this trend. Over the eighteenth century, British customs duties (on imported tea, sugar, wine, foreign spirits, and tobacco) and excise taxes (on beer, malt, domestic spirits, and salt) pushed revenue to staggering heights. By the reign of George III, indirect taxation had grown to 80 percent of total tax revenues, providing ample funding for Britain’s debt and catapulting the nation to great-power status. This rise in indirect taxation was not merely a reﬂection of British commercial growth, as vigorous as that growth was.
Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground by Michael Kwass