Research into the economic history of the Napoleonic period has been active since Louis Bergeron set out its main themes at the bicentenary conference of 1969, although agriculture still remains a neglected area much in need of up-to-date review . The gap is regrettable, since France in the early nineteenth century was predominantly an agricultural country, and long remained so. More than three-quarters of the Empire’s GNP, in many regions appreciably more, derived from agriculture and its immediately related industries, and an even greater proportion of the French population owed its sole or primary employment to that economic sector. Apart from the full-time peasant, the rural artisan was a common figure of provincial life almost everywhere. Yet the first essential point to stress is the huge regional diversity of French agriculture and of the conditions in which peasants lived and worked, one reason why the Napoleonic regime and others after it never managed to formulate a Rural Code. Most historians are now agreed that there was no striking improvement in agricultural equipment or methods under Napoleon, nothing at least which might be called an ‘agricultural revolution’, notwithstanding the extravagant claims often made by his officials.
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