'Reduced to Cinders': The Impact of the French Religious Wars

David McKinnon-Bell analyses the state of France around 1598 and explains why recovery under Henry IV was so rapid.  

The civil wars which tore France apart in the second half of the 16th century had appalling consequences for her economy, society and people. Scholars and contemporaries have frequently emphasised the devastation and ruin which the country faced at the time of Henry IV’s succession. This, in turn, has helped fuel the legend of Henry IV as the man who, by re-establishing peace, brought about prosperity and regeneration. As the Englishman Thomas Overbury observed in 1609: ‘He hath enriched France with a greater proportion of wool and silk, erected goodly buildings, cut passages betwixt river and river … redeemed much of the mortgaged domains of the Crown, better husbanded the money [and] got aforehand in treasure, arms and munition.’

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