University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Financial History Seminar > Jacques Necker's Compte rendu au roi (1781) and the Transformation of Modern Political Discourse

Jacques Necker's Compte rendu au roi (1781) and the Transformation of Modern Political Discourse

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Published in more the 40,000 editions in 1781—and around 100,000 copies in the following years—Necker’s Compte rendu was easily one of the greatest best-sellers, if the note the greatest, of its time. Historians of political discourse should take note, for Necker’s treatise transformed traditional language of politics. It used terms such as virtue, the state and happiness. But it also was a treatise about state accounts that not only equated balanced books with political virtue; it provided the accounts themselves, thus tying good government with the publication of government accounts. While the use of state accounts in government debate had long existed in Britain, Necker’s Compte rendu established the genre, creating a vast corpus of comptes rendus in revolutionary France, while inspiring important imitations from Florence to Philadelphia, thus establishing the use of accounting numbers and balance sheets as central tools in modern discourses of political virtue.

This talk is part of the Financial History Seminar series.

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