Illegal Economy and Ideology
Does participation in the illegal economy lead to specific political and cultural preferences? In the context of eighteenth-century France, this project examines the impact of pre-revolutionary smuggling on attitudes towards the Revolution. The pre-revolutionary tax system was extremely heterogeneous across the country, especially with regard to the main indirect tax, the gabelle (salt tax). The considerable price differences between provinces led to the development of salt smuggling along internal tax borders. I measure the local intensity of smuggling using data from court records and data on violent clashes between law enforcement and smugglers, who are often supported by the local population. I argue that proximity to the fiscal border is an exogenous driver of local specialization in salt smuggling, which I use to identify the impact of the illicit economy on post-revolutionary political and cultural outcomes, including resistance to conscription and naming patterns. I build two novel municipality-level datasets on conscripts’ place of birth from military archives and on first names from genealogy websites. The revolutionary attempt at mass conscription was the starting point of the civil war. Former smuggling regions became hotbeds of counter-revolutionary movements, which many former smugglers joined. The revolutionary state also tried to replace Catholic forenames with ‘republican’ ones, the prevalence of which I use as a proxy for local support for the revolution. Preliminary results to come will confirm whether economic incentives to challenge state authority do translate into ideological choices that also contradict the state’s hegemonic claims.