Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/540

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to place it on a firmer footing. The main resources of the feudal monarchs had been drawn from the royal estates and supplemented by occasional aids; but the institution of a permanent faille now furnished to the Crown a regular income from taxation} which was defrayed by the trading and industrial as well as the agricultural classes. The French Crown had been mainly dependent for its revenue on the landed classes; but it henceforth became the direct interest of the King to watch and promote the welfare of industry and commerce. As a result of this financial policy extraordinary pains were taken in regard to the supervision and direction of industrial life. The corps-de-metier were revived in one town after another, but they were not permitted to retain the old status of mere municipal institutions; they were brought into direct relations with the Crown, so that they became part of a centralised system for the administrative control of the whole of French manufactures. This centralisation and over-regulation came in time to be baneful to industrial interests; but at the outset it was a natural result of the efforts of the royal authority to foster material prosperity. Under Charles VII the foundations were laid of that bourgeois policy which was pursued more thoroughly, and in defiance of the expressed disapprobation of the nobility, by Louis XI. We shall be better able to gauge the importance of this change when we come to examine the special character of the subsequent revival of French prosperity in the time of Henry of Navarre.

The far-reaching influence exercised by this fiscal change contrasts curiously with the instability of the great commercial connexion established by Jacques Coeur. He desired to open up a direct trade with the East, and succeeded in obtaining numerous concessions not only from the French Crown, but also from the Pope, and from Muslim Powers in Egypt and Syria. These privileges secured to him the monopoly of many lines of profitable trade; he is said to have had no fewer than three hundred factors at various points on the eastern Mediterranean. This great commercial fabric, however, rested on concessions personal to Jacques Coeur and his representatives; and, on his fall from favour, the whole structure collapsed. Montpellier was the principal seat of his business, and the town enjoyed a period of extraordinary prosperity through the trade which he brought to it; but this brief efflorescence seems to have had little abiding influence on the future of French commerce. The main interest attaching to the career of Jacques Coeur as a merchant lies in the illustration which it furnishes of the possibilities open in the early fifteenth century to men who had the capacity to use them.

At first sight, the conditions of life in that age appear to have been such as to make it impossible to understand how great fortunes could have been amassed. If the career of Jacques Cceur had been absolutely unique, it might be sufficient to say that he was able to take advantage