A fresh look at the rural elite of the 19th century

Rural identities?
By Nadine Vivier

Over the past 25 years, French historiography has changed our vision of 19th century rural societies. Instead of an unchanging world dominated by a narrow, mainly aristocratic elite, a more complex world has been highlighted, in which economic and cultural upheavals and the introduction of universal male suffrage prompted an expansion of rural elites. While the elites at the beginning of the century were defined by their material wealth, their local roots and their social capital, they diversified thanks to the importance given to knowledge and their capacity to join networks of power given their professional skills.

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