Saturday, October 5, 2019

Bread Shortages and the French Revolution

Let it once more be proclaimed that Marie-Antoinette never said "Let them eat cake." And one of the reasons Louis XVI introduced potatoes in France was to counteract the periodic bread shortages. From History:
As the monarch was required to ensure the food supply of his subjects, the king was nicknamed “le premier boulanger du royaume” (First Baker of the Kingdom). His Finance Minister Jacques Necker claimed that, to show solidarity with those who lacked wheat, King Louis XVI was eating the lower-class maslin bread. Maslin bread is from a mix of wheat and rye, rather than the elite manchet, white bread that is achieved by sifting wholemeal flour to remove the wheatgerm and bran (and which meant one had enough wheat at one’s disposal to discard a bulk of it in the process).

But such measures were not enough, and bread (or the lack of it) was exploited as a weapon by revolutionary minds. A plot drawn up at Passy in 1789 to foment rebellion against the crown, allegedly proposed several articles, the second of which was to “do everything in our power to ensure that the lack of bread is total, so that the bourgeoisie are forced to take up arms.” Shortly thereafter the Bastille was stormed. (Read more.)

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