Ancien Régime

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Ancien Régime refers to the aristocratic social and political order of France between the 14th and 18th centuries under the Valois and Bourbon dynasties. It is commonly known in English as the old regime to describe the prevailing political and social model in place in France prior to the French Revolution.

Society and Population

The Ancien Régime covered a territory of around 200,000 square miles in 1700, could support around 20 million peoples and at least four fifths of the population were peasants.[1] There was no nationwide census before 1789 and therefore these figures are estimates.[2]

France had the second largest population in Europe around 1700[3], Germany being then in effect a mass of independent states, but this advantage began to fade during the 18th century, with the European population growing faster than the French. France's first real experiment with conscription was after the Regime (in 1798) and led to an unprecedented military superiority compared to her European neighbours.


  1. Pierre Goubert, The Ancien Regime (1973) pp. 2-9
  2. France lagged behind most of Europe in this regard; Spain and Sweden held censuses in 1717 and 1720 respectively
  3. England estimated to have around five or six million, Spain had around eight million and the Austrian Habsburgs had around eight million. Russia was the most populated European country at the time