Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-cnmwb Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-23T12:05:48.288Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Identity and Life Narratives of the Poor in Later Sixteenth-Century Tours*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018


This essay examines autobiographical moments in supplicant claims for poor relief in Tours during the 1580s. Appealing for assistance required the poor to construct explanations for their present impoverished circumstances. Some supplicant petitions offer historians opportunities to explore self-representation and life narratives by a social group that was largely illiterate and whose experiences are underrepresented in the written records. This essay examines how such evidence can provide some insights into meanings of individuality, identity, life history, achievement, and civic participation from the perspective of people at the lower social levels of sixteenth-century French society.

Copyright © 2004 Renaissance Society of America

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



I wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Australian Research Council and the kind assistance of the archivists at the Archives municipales de Tours, and to thank Patricia Crawford and the readers and editor of RQ for their insightful comments on earlier versions of this essay. All translations are my own unless otherwise noted.


Beasley, Faith E. Revising Memory: Women's Fictions and Memoirs in Seventeenth- Century France. New Brunswick, 1990.Google Scholar
Beckerman Davis, Barbara. “Poverty and Poor Relief in Sixteenth-Century Toulouse.“ Historical Reflections 17, no. 3, (1991): 267-96.Google Scholar
Benedict, Philip. “French Cities from the Sixteenth Century to the Revolution: An Overview.” In Cities and Social Change in Early Modern France, ed. Benedict, Philip, 7-68. London, 1989.Google Scholar
Bjorklund, Diane. Interpreting the Self Two Hundred Years of American Autobiography. Chicago, 1998.Google Scholar
Cavallo, Sandra. “The Motivations of Benefactors: An Overview of Approaches to the Study of Charity.” In Medicine and Charity before the Welfare State, ed. Barry, Jonathan and Jones, Colin, 4662. London, 1991.Google Scholar
Cavallo, Sandra. Charity and Power in Early Modern Italy: Benefactors and their Motives in Turin, 1541-1789. Cambridge, 1995.Google Scholar
Chamberlain, Mary, and Thompson, Paul, eds. “Introduction.” Narrative and Genre, 122. London, 1998.Google Scholar
Chevalier, Bernard. Tours, ville royale (1356-1520): Origine et developpement d'une capitale a la fin du Moyen Age. Paris, 1975.Google Scholar
Cholakian, Patricia F. Women and the Politics of Self-Representation in Seventeenth- Century France. Newark, 2000.Google Scholar
Crites, Stephen. “Storytime: Recollecting the Past and Projecting the Future.” In Narrative Psychology, ed. Sarbin, Theodore, 152-73. New York, 1986.Google Scholar
Davis, Natalie Zemon. Society and Culture in Early Modern France. Stanford, 1978.Google Scholar
Davis, Natalie Zemon. “Boundaries and the Sense of Self in Sixteenth-Century France.” In Reconstructing Individualism: Autonomy, Individuality, and the Self in Western Thought, ed. Heller, Thomas C., Sosna, Morton, and Wellbery, David E., 53-63. Stanford, 1986.Google Scholar
Davis, Natalie Zemon. Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and their Tellers in Sixteenth- Century France. Stanford, 1987.Google Scholar
Davis, Natalie Zemon. Women on the Margins: Three Seventeenth-Century Lives. Cambridge, MA, 1995.Google Scholar
Dinges, Martin. “Self-Help and Reciprocity in Parish Assistance: Bordeaux in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries.“ In The Locus of Care: Families, Communities, Institutions and the Provision of Welfare since Antiquity, ed. Horden, Peregrine and Smith, Richard, 111-25. London, 1998.Google Scholar
Du Laurens, Jeanne. Une famille au XVI' siecle. Ed. de Ribbe, Charles. Paris, 1868.Google Scholar
Eakin, Paul J. Touching the World: Reference in Autobiography. Princeton, 1992.Google Scholar
Fosseyeux, Marcel. “L'Assistance parisienne au milieu du XVP siecle.” Mémoires de Thistoire de Paris et de TIle-de-France 43 (1916): 83128.Google Scholar
Giraudet, Eugene. Histoiredela ville de Tours. Vol. 2. 1873. Reprint. Brussels 1976.Google Scholar
Gowing, Laura. Domestic Dangers: Women, Words, and Sex in Early Modern London. Oxford, 1996.Google Scholar
Grell, Ole Peter, Andrew Cunningham, and Arrizabalaga, Jon, eds. Health Care and Poor Relief in Counter-Reformation Europe. London, 1999.Google Scholar
Gusdorf, Georges. “Conditions and Limits of Autobiography.” In Autobiographies: Essays Theoretical and Critical, ed. Olney, James, 2848. Princeton, 1980.Google Scholar
Gutton, Jean-Pierre. La Societeet lespauvres: L'exemple de la generality de Lyon, 1534-1789. Paris, 1971.Google Scholar
Gutton, Jean-Pierre. “Mutations et continuityé (XVIe siecle).” In Histoire des hopitaux en France, ed. Imbert, Jean, 135-60. Toulouse, 1982.Google Scholar
Henderson, John, and Wall, Richard, eds. Poor Women and Children in the European Past. London, 1994.Google Scholar
Hitchcock, Tim, King, Peter, and Sharpe, Pamela, eds. Chronicling Poverty: The Voices and Strategies of the English Poor, 1640-1840. Basingstoke, 1997.Google Scholar
Hufton, Olwen H. The Poor of Eighteenth- Century France, 1750-1789. Oxford, 1974.Google Scholar
Kerby, Anthony Paul. Narrative and the Self. Bloomington, 1991.Google Scholar
Koch, Matthew. “Poor Relief in Montauban, 1548 to 1629.” Proceedings of the Western Society for French History 23 (1996): 6980.Google Scholar
Lazard, Madeleine. “The Memoirs of Marguerite de Valois and the Birth of Women's Autobiography.” In Women Writers in Pre-Revolutionary France: Strategies of Emancipation, ed. Winn, Colette H. and Kuizenga, Donna, 349-62. New York, 1997.Google Scholar
de Valois, Marguerite. Mimoires et autres icrits, 1574-1614. Ed. Viennot, Eliane. Paris, 1999.Google Scholar
McFarlane, Ian. A Literary History of France: Renaissance France, 1470-1589. London, 1974.Google Scholar
Mendelson, Sara, and Crawford, Patricia. Women in Early Modern England. Oxford, 1998.Google Scholar
Mentzer, Raymond A. “Organizational Endeavour and Charitable Impulse in Sixteenth-Century France: The Care of Protestant Nimes.” French History 5, no. 1 (1991): 129.Google Scholar
Miller, Naomi J., and Yavneh, Naomi, eds. Maternal Measures: Figuring Caregiving in the Early Modern Period. Aldershot, 2000.Google Scholar
Nicholls, David. “Protestants, Catholics and Magistrates in Tours, 1562-1572: The Making of a Catholic City During die Religious Wars.” French History 8, no. 1(1994): 1433.Google Scholar
Pugh, Wilma J. “Social Welfare and the Edict of Nantes: Lyon and Nimes.“ French Historical Studies 8, no. 3 (1974): 349-76.Google Scholar
Pugh, Wilma J.. “Catholics, Protestants, and Testamentary Charity in Seventeenth- Century Lyon and Nimes.” French Historical Studies 11, no. 4 (1980): 479504.Google Scholar
Sharpe, Pamela. “Survival Strategies and Stories: Poor Widows and Widowers in Early Industrial England.” In Widowhood in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Cavallo, Sandra and Warner, Lyndan, 220-39. Harlow, 1999.Google Scholar
Taylor, Charles. Sources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity. Cambridge, MA, 1989.Google Scholar
Tours, Archives municipales. GG 1. Pieces relating to the accounts, registers and receipts of the Aumône-Générale de Tours, 1548, 1551-54, 1557.Google Scholar
Tours, Archives municipales. GG 2. Pieces relating to the accounts, registers, and receipts of the Aumône-Générale de Tours, 1560-87.Google Scholar
Tours, Archives municipales. GG 3. Pieces relating to the accounts, registers, and receipts of the Aumône-Générale de Tours, 1580-84.Google Scholar
Tours, Archives municipales. GG 4. Pieces relating to the accounts, registers, and receipts of the Aumône-Générale de Tours, 1583-89.Google Scholar
Tours, Archives municipales. GG 5. Pieces relating to the accounts, registers, and receipts of the Aumône-Générale de Tours, 1591-95.Google Scholar
Tours, Archives municipales. GG 6. Pieces relating to the accounts, registers, and receipts of the Aumône-Générale de Tours, 1595-98.Google Scholar
Van Leeuwen, Marcus H.D. “Logic of Charity: Poor Relief in Preindustrial Europe.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 24, no. 4 (1994): 589613.Google Scholar