Edme de la Poix de Fréminville (1680–1773) was among the most important and frequently cited authorities on practical feudal law in mid eighteenth-century France.1 In 1746, he published what turned out to be a standard manual on seigneurial administration, La Pratique universelle pour la rénovation des terriers et des droits seigneuriaux. A century later, when discussing aspects of the Ancien Régime’s feudal society, Alexis de Tocqueville still relied heavily, though not uncritically, on Fréminville.2 Throughout the five extensive volumes of La Pratique, archives played an important role. Habitually Fréminville mentioned individual repositories that he himself had visited or had heard about. In occasionally colourful detail, his book documents the astonishing degree to which he thought archives to be an important and somewhat self-evident component of provincial French feudal society.3 Yet, as Fréminville knew well, French seigneurial archives did...

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