To what extent did Colbert succeed in reforming the French economy and finances?

Authors Avatar by jackomoondogmailcom (student)

To what extent did Colbert succeed in reforming the French economy and finances?

Jean Baptiste Colbert, as finance minister in France under Louis XIV, put in place a number of measures and initiated great change in the system of taxation, to attempt to salvage a balanced economy out of what was left by the situation of financial irresponsibility under Louis XIII. While a number of these reforms significantly changed France’s financial situation, there was certainly some oversight and failure on Colbert’s part in certain areas, such as international trade and agriculture.

Colbert stimulated industries to help the French economy by investing state capital and putting protective tariffs in place, encouraging new industries to flourish and existing ones to improve and produce more wealth for the state. He also introduced a standardised system of weights and measures and a postal system; these, with a canal system, were fairly successful attempts to create more domestic trade. He saw that, in a time where roads were slow to travel on, canals were a necessity to increase industry. It took a whole ten days to travel from Paris to Lyon by coach- heavy goods needed far more efficient transport. Colbert was powerless to stop the outdated collection of péages for goods being transported through France, originally intended when local landowners had to maintain the infrastructure themselves. It was financial and political traditions of the ancien regime like this that made sensible taxation so difficult.

Join now!

He was very successful in his reform of taxation, specifically direct taxation. He reduced the direct taxation, a highly popular move among the Third Estate. To counter the drop in revenue this would have caused, Colbert fined corrupt financiers and used representatives known as intendants to monitor collection of taxes. This meant that the taxes went down, the amount of money collected by the government from taxes went up and it was a far more efficient system of taxation. Colbert also dodged the complex political restrictions of the pay d’états and the pay d’élections which made direct taxation so difficult ...

This is a preview of the whole essay