Jean Baptiste Colbert

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Colbert, Jean Baptiste


Born Aug. 29, 1619, in Reims; died Sept. 6, 1683, in Paris. French statesman. The son of a wealthy merchant.

In 1651, Colbert entered the service of Cardinal Mazarin; then, recommended by the cardinal to King Louis XIV, he went into government service. Colbert uncovered abuses by the superintendent of finances, N. Fouquet, bringing about Fouquet’s resignation and trial. Colbert quickly established his career: he became a member of the Supreme Council in 1661, superintendent of buildings in 1664, superintendent of trade in 1665, controller general of finance in 1665, and secretary of state and minister of the navy in 1669; he concentrated management of France’s internal policies almost totally in his own hands.

Colbert’s economic policy, Colbertism, was one of the varieties of mercantilism. He sought to increase state revenue primarily by promoting a favorable balance of payments through creating manufactures, encouraging industry, increasing the export of industrial goods and the import of raw materials, and reducing the import of foreign-made finished products. At Colbert’s insistence, a special judicial chamber was instituted in 1661 to investigate cases of financial abuse. (The fines and property confiscations that were adjudged by it added more than 100 million livres to the treasury by 1665.) In 1667 he introduced a new customs tariff, which raised duties on foreign merchandise. At Colbert’s initiative monopolistic trading companies were organized for foreign trade, mainly for colonial trade (the West India, East India, Levantine, Senegalese, and other companies). He promoted the improvement of roads and the digging of canals (for instance, the Languedoc Canal [Canal du Midi] in 1666–81). Under Colbert the navy increased from 18 vessels in 1661 to 276 in 1683. Concerning himself with the development of industry, Colbert left the interests of agriculture in the background. The taille (direct tax on peasant lands) was lowered somewhat, but indirect taxes—the gabelle (salt tax) and the tobacco tax—were sharply increased and a stamp duty was collected.

Colbert’s policies caused a series of peasant revolts (1664, 1666–69, 1670, 1674–75), which were brutally suppressed. Colbert strove to increase central authority. All administrative power in the provinces was turned over to intendants, and the rights of the parlements (royal tribunals) were curtailed. Colbert founded the Academy of Inscriptions and Literature (under the name “Little Academy”) in 1663, the Academy of Sciences (”Royal Academy of Sciences”) in 1666, the Royal Academy of Music in 1669, and the Royal Academy of Architecture in 1671. In 1667, Colbert became a member of the Académie Française.


Lettres, instructions et mémoires, vols. 1–8. Paris, 1861–82.


Barshchevskaia, N. E. “Promyshlennaia politika Kol’bere.” Nauch. zap. Voroshilovgradskogo ped. in-ta, 1940, no. 1.
Porshnev, B. F. “Narodnye vosstaniia vo Frantsii pri Kol’bere.” In the collection Srednie veka, no. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1946.
Farrère, Cl. J.-B. Colbert. Paris, 1954.
Mongrédien, G. J.-B. Colbert. Paris, 1963.
Sargent, A. J. The Economic Policy of Colbert. New York [1968].


References in periodicals archive ?
Fouquet had fallen to his main rival in the administration, the dogged Jean-Baptiste Colbert, now the king's ministerial favorite and thus victorious in this example of high-stakes office politics.
4), a series commissioned from the Manufacture royale des Gobelins by Louis XIV's minister of finance Jean-Baptiste Colbert, and produced between 1665 and 1673 (3m [euro]-4m [euro] for the group).
El trabajo de investigacion (3) que presentamos a continuacion trata de identificar, analizar y estudiar las encuademaciones artisticas depositadas en la Biblioteca Complutense de la familia Colbert, realizadas en Paris entre finales del siglo XVII y el primer cuarto del siglo XVIII, y que pertenecieron originalmente a la Biblioteca de Jean-Baptiste Colbert (4) y sus herederos.
The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing," said Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Louis XIV's finance minister.
Finally, Ortiz-Iribas argues that the marquis del Carpio, Gaspar de Haro y Guzman, ambassador to Rome and then viceroy in Naples in the late seventeenth century, achieved popularity and made significant political reforms by following neither Spanish nor Italian models but instead by pursuing the French standards of Louis XIV and Jean-Baptiste Colbert.
Questioning just what is "modern" about bureaucracy with the help of contingency theory, the authors analyze Jean-Baptiste Colbert de Torcy's foreign affairs department during the latter part of Louis XIV's reign to show both that this ministry was highly specialized and organized by 1715 and that this system is not so different from bureaucracies of our time.
When the famed Jean-Baptiste Colbert was Louis XIV's personal accountant, providing the Sun King with personal account books--including some that the king carried in his pockets--France prospered.
The Committee takes its name from Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683), the French prime minister who carried out a program of protectionism and economic reconstruction during the 17th century.
At this time Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the Comptroller General of Finances for France's King Louis XIV, was working to build up French navigation and commerce.
Both the students and I found Ames' theses to be clear and we were able to discuss them based on the included primary sources that presented the competitive strategies of the various European powers (the descriptions of the Dutch by Josiah Childs and Jean-Baptiste Colbert were especially helpful).
I enjoy nothing more" wrote Jean-Baptiste Colbert France's Minister of Finance under King Louis XIV "than making love dining well and drinking the rich red wines of Bordeaux and I am never more pleased when I can carry out these activities all at the same time.
The art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose to obtain the largest amount of feathers with the least amount of hissing," said Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the finance minister of Louis XIV.

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