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Thesis (M.A.)—University of Nebraska—Lincoln, 1961. Department of History.


Copyright 1961, the author. Used by permission.


The reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715) marked a significant phase in the history of the Old Regime.The French monarchy reached a crossroads between medieval and modern concepts of kingship. The purpose of this thesis is to examine the political philosophy of the aristocratic critics of the Old Regime.Primary emphasis will be placed on the aristocrat, François de Salignac de la Mothe Fénelon, Arch-bishop of Cambrai.There are several questions to be asked about the political thought of Fénelon.Was he an aristocratic critic only concerned with restoring a more powerful and functional nobility, or were his political writings concerned with ideas of individualism and the freedom of all social groups from state tyranny?Was Fénelon essentially a reforming reactionary attempting to restore the feudal contract limiting despotism, or was he a precursor of the Enlightenment with its optimistic view of man and its confidence in reason? Was he only a vague political dreamer or did he develop a positive political philosophy?If Fénelon’s pupil, the Duke of Burgundy had lived to become King of France, would he have been able to make practical use of his tutor’s philosophy?

Advisor: Robert Forster