Synopses & Reviews
Michael Kwass's Contraband: Louis Mandrin and the Making of a Global Underground is a striking and novel biography of the celebrated smuggler and bandit, Louis Mandrin. Drawing ingeniously on both microhistory and global history, Kwass explores wide-ranging, vivid, and often unexpected facets of an eighteenth-century life--and shows how that life was rampantly embroidered in the public sphere. Colin Jones, author of < i=""> The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to Napoleon <>
A profoundly imaginative work that shows readers how the expansion of global commodity production penetrated deeply into provincial France over the eighteenth century. Paul Cheney, author of < i=""> Revolutionary Commerce: Globalization and the French Monarchy <>
[An] excellent book...The greatest strength of Contraband lies in its convincing use of Mandrin to explain how France's Ancien Regime fell apart...Over the past twenty years, as historians have come to recognize the importance of early globalization, they have struggled to link it to the political upheavals of the 18th century. In Contraband, Michael Kwass has provided one of the strongest and most satisfying models of how the connection worked. David A. Bell
Engrossing and ambitious...Vivid and thrilling, Kwass's depiction of Mandrin and his infamous associates also leads to a compelling reconsideration of the larger political and economic shifts occurring in pre-Revolutionary France...From Savoyard peasants to worldly noblemen, Kwass engagingly recreates the spider-web of illicit commerce and the motivations of those who stood to gain from it...Contraband's undeniable strength comes from Kwass's superb, at times cinematic, attention to detail. In recreating Mandrin's smuggling raids in 1754 and 1755, Kwass develops a fascinating array of characters and settings. Kwass's Mandrin is a sharply dressed and sophisticated protagonist with a flair for political theater, a shrewd leader, outmaneuvering the numerous intrigues thickening around him, albeit ultimately and tragically undone by circumstances...The story is filled with assassinations, betrayals, sieges, elegant dinner parties, riveting chase sequences, and more...Throughout this remarkable story, there is drama and insight enough to galvanize the attention of both scholars and lay readers. London Review of Books
Louis Mandrin led a gang of bandits who brazenly smuggled contraband into eighteenth-century France. Michael Kwass brings new life to the legend of this Gallic Robin Hood, exposing the dark side of early modern globalization. Decades later, the memory of Mandrin inspired ordinary subjects and Enlightened philosophers alike to challenge royal power.
About the Author
Michael Kwass is Associate Professor of History at Johns Hopkins University.
Johns Hopkins University