Remonstrance of Court of Aides (1775)


The Court of Aides was a special chamber of the Parlement of Paris dealing with taxation. It, too, could issue "remonstrances" to protest against royal edicts that it opposed. In this remonstrance, the Court of Aides protests against reforms proposed by ministers to the newly crowned king, Louis XVI. The court argues generally for the right of the "nation"—as represented by the Parlements,... Read More »

Remonstrances of Parlement of Paris against Turgot’s Six Edicts (1776)


In these remonstrances, the magistrates of the Parlement of Paris,recently restored to their position by Louis XVI after having been "exiled" from office by Louis XV in 1771, voice their opposition to reforms proposed by the finance minister, Anne–Robert–Jacques Turgot. In the first, they argue against Turgot’s idea of raising money by taxing lands owned by nobles. The magistrates (themselves... Read More »

Circular medieval painting of a man raising his right arm

Res Obscura

Functioning primarily as the personal blog of historian Benjamin Breen, Res Obscura stays true to its by-line by being ‘a catalogue of obscure things’.
Hakluytus Posthumus excerpt

Rivalry Between English and Dutch East India Companies


The Amboyna trial was a famous conspiracy case that took place in 1623 when a group of Japanese mercenaries were accused of plotting with English merchants to seize control of a Dutch fort on a remote island in Southeast Asia. Despite occurring thousands of miles away in an unfamiliar part of the world, the trial on Amboyna swiftly escalated to become one of the most famous legal cases of the... Read More »

Thumbnail of engraving

Robespierre Laid on the Table of the Committee of Public Safety


This Dutch engraving, based on a sketch by Berthault, shows Robespierre laid out on the table where his Committee of Public Safety did its work. It is the morning of 10 Thermidor and having been condemned to death by the Convention the night before, Robespierre and his followers now face their demise, as soldiers come to take them to the guillotine.

Royal Decree Convoking the Estates–General and the Parlementary Response (1788)


By the fall of 1788, parlementary opposition to royal reforms had brought about a stalemate, with the Parlements refusing all reforms to the tax system. To gain the Parlement of Paris’s acceptance of new loans to keep the monarchy from going bankrupt, the new finance minister (Louis XVI’s fifth), Étienne–Charles Loménie de Brienne, decided to convoke an Estates–General for the first time since... Read More »

Rude Pravo, Central Committee Meeting


In 1978, one year after the creation of Charter '77, Vaclav Havel wrote his famous essay, "The Power of the Powerless." In it he argued that the countries of the East Bloc were under the rule of post-totalitarian regimes that appealed to popular desires for consumer goods, in order to secure domination over their populations. Indeed, these governments did make consumerist appeals. But they... Read More »

A reservoir after evaporation – turning up the salt – salt fields, Solinen, Russia

Salt Fields in Solinen, Russia


This stereograph, captioned "A reservoir after evaporation – turning up the salt – salt fields, Solinen, Russia," is an image of female workers breaking up the crust of salt formed after the evaporation of a reservoir and forming the salt into mounds for later collection. While the stereograph's caption notes the image was taken in Solinen, Russia, it most likely depicts the Kuyalnik estuary.... Read More »

Samizdat, Consumer Goods


Czechoslovaks watched the unfolding of perestroika [restructuring] in the Soviet Union and its slow introduction into their own economy with great interest, although there were obstacles to doing so. While the Czechoslovak Communist Party was ready to start experimenting with economic perestroika, it maintained reservations about glasnost [openness or publicity]. It suppressed reports about... Read More »

Samizdat, Five Year Plan


In 1986 the Czechoslovak Communist Central Committee approved its Eighth Five Year Plan since 1948, which stayed in effect, with modifications, until 1990. The plan built upon the East Bloc practices of following the Soviet command-economy model and emphasizing heavy industry over consumer goods. For example, the plan called for industrial output to grow 15.8% for the five year period (roughly... Read More »