Synopses & Reviews
In Old Regime France credit was both a central part of economic exchange and a crucial concept for explaining dynamics of influence and power in all spheres of life. Contemporaries used the term credit
to describe reputation and the currency it provided in court politics, literary production, religion, and commerce. Moving beyond Pierre Bourdieu's theorization of capital, this book establishes credit as a key matrix through which French men and women perceived their world. As Clare Haru Crowston demonstrates, credit unveils the personal character of market transactions, the unequal yet reciprocal ties binding society, and the hidden mechanisms of political power.
Credit economies constituted andquot;economies of regardandquot; in which reputation depended on embodied performances of credibility. Crowston explores the role of fashionable appearances and sexual desire in leveraging credit and reconstructs women's vigorous participation in its gray markets. The scandalous relationship between Queen Marie Antoinette and fashion merchant Rose Bertin epitomizes the vertical loyalties and deep social divides of the credit regime and its increasingly urgent political stakes.
andquot;If you want to understand how things really worked in the world of French Queen Marie Antoinette, then read this book. Behind the glitter and the glowing beauty stood the fashion designer who provided style and most important, credit, for the rich rarely settled their debts. With this masterful and fascinating study, Clare Haru Crowston lays bare a whole cultural system in which economics, fashion, marriage, and social distinction were intertwined in brilliant and ultimately fatal ways.andquot;andmdash;Lynn Hunt, author of Inventing Human Rights: A History
andquot;Credit, Fashion, Sex is one of the most remarkable books that I have read in the past decade. It is a virtuoso performance that marshals interest in a staggering array of interconnected themes, among them gender and sex, capitalism and nonmaterial levers of power, the role of information and the pretensions of absolutism, the consumer revolution and stark inequality, fashion and anxiety, confidence and deceit. It shows us how understanding credit systems inflects the way we fathom everything else.andquot;andmdash;Steven L. Kaplan, author of Le pain maudit: Retour sur la France des annandeacute;es oubliandeacute;es, 1945andndash;1958
andquot;Crowstonand#39;s approach highlights interesting connections, but she extends it well beyond its usefulness . . . This stimulating book dismantles and reassembles all of the components involved in the new fashion industry.andquot;
andldquo;[T]his is a book teeming with insights about the economy and culture of the Old Regime. The twinning of credit and fashion in Crowstonandrsquo;s analysis offers a refreshing new perspective on the history of fashion. . . . This is an important book that many early modern French historians will want to read and debate.andrdquo;
andquot;After reading this book, I cannot imagine lecturing on the old regime without devoting attention to the theme of credit.andquot;and#160;
andquot;Expands our understanding of the role of women in old regime credit markets, even as she transforms our understanding of the credit markets themselves.andquot;
andldquo;As illuminating as the book is for historians of eighteenth-century France, its most important contribution may be the innovative methodology by which it integrates economic, social, cultural, and political history. In this respect, the book serves as a model for all scholars interested in cutting-edge research that combines the best of the humanities and social sciences.andrdquo;
Credit, Fashion, Sex is a historical account of how, in Old Regime France, credit was both a central part of economic exchange and a crucial concept for explaining dynamics of influence and power in all spheres of life.
About the Author
Clare Haru Crowston is Associate Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Fabricating Women: The Seamstresses of Old Regime France, 1675andndash;1791, also published by Duke University Press.
Table of Contents
Illustrations and Tables ix
Money and Measurements xi
1. Credit and Old Regime Economies of Regard 21
2. Critiques and Crises of the Credit System 56
3. Incredible Style: Intertwined Circuits of Credit, Fashion, and Sex 96
4. Credit in the Fashion Trades of Eighteenth-Century Paris 139
5. Fashion Merchants: Managing Credit, Narrating Collapse 195
6. Madame Dand#233;ficit and Her Minister of Fashion: Self-Fashioning and the Politics of Credit 246
7. Family Affairs: Consumption, Credit, and the Marriage Bond 283
Conclusion. Credit is Dead. Long Live Credit! 316