- Oct 2013
- Montreal, QC
Louis XIV is easily one of the most recognisable figures in French history, if not world history. In his 70+ year reign, he forged France into one of the greatest countries in the world, the formidable foe of Europe. Even his sobriquets emanate greatness: Louis le Grand, Louis Dieudonné, and of course, Le Roi Soleil. France expanded greatly under his rule, and many new colonies cropped up in the Americas, Asia, and Africa. During his reign, France had a large and efficient army, which was an instrument Louis used in scare tactics against the rest of the Continent. His territorial successes were not only overseas; he swallowed up portions of Europe in his numerous wars. Three-fifths of Louis' reign was spent in war.
Beyond martial conquests, Louis' reign was a cultural accomplishment. Not only was the genius Jean-Baptiste Lully Louis' primary court composer, Louis did well for art and science. Indeed, Louis XIV was the man who invented ballet! Louis himself was a great patron of the arts, and in 1666, he founded l'Académie des sciences.
However, because Louis spent so much time in war, he plunged France into debt. He also revoked the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which destroyed any rights that the French Protestants may have had. Sadly, this revocation fell in the same time frame as Catholic James II's ascension to the English throne, which made people even more suspicious of him. After Louis died in 1715, France was in crippling debt. His opulence sewed the seeds of the French Revolution some years later.
So, here's the question I'm curious to know your opinion about: was Louis XIV truly a great king, or was he just a tyrant? I look forward to the debate! I hope to formulate stronger arguments in favour of Louis as the thread goes on; I feel like debates get progressively better when you can actively bounce ideas off of other historians.