Les Liaisons Dangereuses (Routledge Classics)

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He entered the army at the age of 18 and reached the rank of capitaine-commandant without seeing battle.


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In he was sent to the island of Aix, where Les Liaisons Dangereuses was written. He also wrote a treatise on the education of women and on the French military architect Vauban. Account Options Log ind. Many new islands were being discovered and had yet to be enumerated and visited.

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In addition, the search for polar areas and for the arctic passages of north-west and north-east remained in abeyance. Continental expanses posed greater obstacles to penetration and were explored at a slower pace. Squatters in the United States settled on the Ohio plains, but the area between the Mississippi and California was unknown, and knowledge of the Amazon basin was sketchy. The advent of the machine era had not yet shortened distances between points of the globe, and vast reaches of the earth were shrouded in mystery.

The main outlines of continents and seas were nevertheless registered upon new maps; the face of the earth was emerging from shadow. Political dissension was even older in origin. Discovery of new lands presented a larger stage for the play of rivalry among great powers.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses - Choderlos de Laclos - Google Bøger

The farther a nation lay from the Atlantic the lower was its level of prosperity, if not of civilization. Losing its monopoly over connections with Asia, the Mediterranean ceased to be the dynamic centre it once had been, a change hastened by the facts that part of its shores belonged to Islam and that it lacked anything like the natural resources of the West.

Italy still preserved a part of the wealth it had acquired, but Germany, ruined by the Thirty Years War, had to wait until the last decades of the eighteenth century for a revival. Its backwardness in comparison to the West grew more pronounced. Not until relatively late was it decided that the schismatic Muscovites could be considered Europeans.

No one suspected that, in occupying Siberia, Russia was building its own kind of colonial empire, for Russian Asia then contained scarcely half a million inhabitants. The diversity of Europe and the warring anarchy to which it was subject produced two visible results by the end of the Old Regime.

Les Liaisons dangereuses

Not only had the partitioning of new territories slackened since the sixteenth century; European supremacy was not yet contested, but colonial empires seemed faced with the threat of internal decomposition. And, although Europe continued to expand, dissension among its rulers curbed its overseas growth. Portugal now had Brazil and a few ports in Africa and Asia. Spain, in contrast, not only retained its imperial boundaries but was expanding them by occupying California, where San Francisco had just been founded, and by acquiring Louisiana and along with it the Mississippi delta and New Orleans.

Despite its losses, it therefore possessed a good part of the sugar-producing areas.

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The newly founded British Empire appeared shaken by the secession of its thirteen American colonies, and its conquest of India had slowed. Britain still controlled all of Bengal, received tribute from Oudh, and with Calcutta ruled Bombay and Madras. But Cornwallis, successor to Warren Hastings, had undertaken reform of the civil administration and was conciliatory in mood; he declined to support the Nizam, sovereign of Hyderabad, when that ruler was attacked by Tippoo, ruler of Mysore.

Another threat was posed by the alliance of feudal Marathas led by Sindhia, whom the Great Mogul recognized as his hereditary lieutenant. Britain nevertheless held an ascendant position among European colonial powers.


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The exploitation of all these empires led to similar ruthless mercantile practices. Each mother country imported the products it lacked and sent back part of its usual exports. In principle it did not allow its colonies to raise or manufacture anything that might compete with its own goods or to trade with other countries, and it permitted no ships other than its own to be used. Overseas territories thus supplied Europe with a mandatory clientele and with two of the basic european expansion resources that stimulated its economy: precious metals and tropical produce.

Gold had to be obtained by panning, and even though Brazil and the Guinea coast of Africa added rich sources, production declined. The planting of food crops spread and stock farming expanded with the opening up of vast grasslands. Leather goods were exported, and the port of Buenos Aires, declared open in , began to prosper. Among native plants, vanilla and quinine, logwood and mahogany were sent to Europe. Charles III freed them in principle from the mita in mines and from the encomienda, which grouped them in villages serving plantations, but wage earners, such as the peons of Mexico, were in fact little more than slaves.

In addition, the natives were required to pay a direct tax and to buy whatever European manufactured goods the managers wished to distribute. According to Humboldt, however, there were not many Negroes: he estimated that they constituted 5 per cent as compared to an Indian population of 47 per cent of the 16 million inhabitants he attributed to Latin America. France and England 7 8 the french revolution jealously regarded the islands as their most valuable colonies.

Because the Carib Indians had been exterminated in the West Indies and because colonists on the American continent were pushing the natives back from the coast, the entire economy of these areas depended upon Negro slave labour. In Louisiana they were thought to constitute half of the total population; the United States had at least , In it was estimated that slave traders transported 74, Negroes to America each year.

Europeans decimated the population with their raids on the mainland; a part of those captured died later at sea. The white men in Africa who ran commercial agencies sometimes traded with natives, but did not try to subjugate them. A similar relationship, purely commercial, prevailed in Asia, where the main concern was not conquest but trade. Europeans paid native rulers for the right to establish trading stations, some of which remained in the eighteenth century. There had been many chartered trading companies in America, but now they were important only in Canada, where they dealt in furs.

These companies sold little and bought much in the Far East. The exports of the French East India Company rose over a four-year period to 7 million livres, and the returns rose to 50 million. In the same period the British East India Company brought in a few woollen goods and hardwares, took back cotton goods, indigo, sugar, rice, and some saltpetre, and left an annual balance of about 2 million pounds sterling.

The Chinese balance sheet, however, was similar to the European: they european expansion bought only a little opium and sold full cargoes of tea, china, and lacquer wares. Whereas Europe grew rich from America, the contrary was true of its relation to Asia, where it spent its money.

On the eve of the French Revolution the Dutch and the English were adding other strings to their bows. By subjugating native populations, as they had in America, they could exploit the inhabitants without having to import Negro slaves. The Dutch forced Malayans to work their plantations, imposed certain crops on the rural communities, and availed themselves of a portion of the harvest.

The British East India Company exercised monopolies on salt, opium, and saltpetre, concluded unconscionable bargains with weavers by granting them advances, and after dispossessing native rulers collected a land tax in their stead. Asia did not know slave traders, but it experienced techniques which recalled those employed by the conquistadors.

Wilberforce and Pitt grew interested in their programme, which aimed not at immediate suppression but at gradual disappearance by abolition of the trade.

Politicians and businessmen were too closely involved in the colonial system to consider giving it up, and, moreover, there were pleaders of its cause. Few on the continent defended the British colonists in India or those in North America who waged war against the Indians to push them westward and settle in their place. Reforms intended to alter colonial abuses were cited, as well as the paternalistic benevolence practised by some planters and the enthusiasm of monks who, like the earlier Jesuits in Paraguay, brought Indians into the missions to educate them.


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  • Colonial defenders pointed to the development of an embryonic middle class composed of Indians, half-breeds, and moneyed and educated mulattoes. Yet most of the subjugated peoples never entirely conformed to a European pattern. They transformed foreign languages into native dialects, secretly practised their religious rites, such as the Voodoo cult at Santo Domingo, and even preserved their legal customs. White men did not attempt to establish residence in tropical Asia and Africa, where the climate was unfavourable and a frightening mortality rate reduced the ranks of company agents and employees.

    Many of them put down roots, and by the end of the eighteenth century colonial-born Europeans far outnumbered those from the mother country. According to Humboldt, Spanish America was 19 per cent white and the proportion of European-born residents in Mexico was 7 per cent. Overseas, a minority of masters confronted a huge majority of subjects. In either long- or short-range terms a potential threat to the encroachers could not be denied. From time to time a leader arose to foment rebellion: the Peruvian Tupac Amaru in ; the Brazilian Tiradentes, executed in From their black slaves, planters feared domestic crimes and sporadic revolts.

    Only England, having evolved a constitutional system, granted its American nationals a certain degree of autonomy through charters. Aspects of the social structure of the older continent were also transplanted to Latin America: clerical privileges and certain noble pretensions, even the manorial regime in French Canada.

    These features were being attenuated, however, at least in the towns. They grew impatient with a ministerial bureaucracy which undertook to decide the most important questions concerning them; they were jealous of crown representatives and aspired to self-government, if not to independence. Above all, they resented exclusive rights and wanted particularly to trade freely abroad. To these material issues were joined those of the enlightened philosophy that reached America. The colonists had schools and universities; even in Spanish and Portuguese territories books circulated freely despite the Inquisition.

    Some of the colonials went to Europe to pursue their studies. The American Revolution 11 12 the french revolution occurred when the moment was ripe to convince others that speculation was not enough. In contrast to the varied population of Latin America, the North Atlantic coast was peopled by white men alone—workers in search of land or employment who had nothing to do with black slaves or Indian servants and who were led by a bourgeoisie of modest pretensions, itself dominated by businessmen.

    This constituted a third type of European expansion. The Puritan spirit of independence preserved the concept of natural right, and charters granted to various colonies carried on the tradition of British common law.

    It's Beyond My Control (Les Liaisons Dangereuses)

    Refusing to be taxed by the London Parliament, where they had no representatives, the colonists severed relations with their homeland. The republic of the United States came into being. Its example captivated European minds and made a powerful contribution to preliminary steps towards social and political reform. But it also forecast disruption of the authority commanded by all colonial powers.

    First and foremost, this act of secession indicated that England would have to plan an entirely new imperial structure if it were to establish white colonies in the future. A new solution was not, however, urgent, since no danger threatened from the French-speaking Canadians, obedient to their Catholic clergy and isolated by their religion, which itself guaranteed their cohesion. Nor was there any threat from the American loyalists who had emigrated to regions north of the Great Lakes.

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