Inheritance in Nineteenth-Century French Culture
Wealth, Knowledge and the Family

Andrew J. Counter

Legenda (General Series)


12 April 2010  •  216pp

ISBN: 978-1-906540-75-3 (hardback)  •  RRP £80, $110, €95

ISBN: 978-1-315092-67-6 (Taylor & Francis ebook)


The transmission of wealth between generations was not only a narrative commonplace in nineteenth-century France, but also a topic of considerable cultural anxiety and intense political debate. In this study, Andrew J. Counter draws on a wealth of previously unexplored material to show how the theme of inheritance in literature and beyond acquired ethical, historical and ideological connotations, and was vital to nineteenth-century French conceptions of the family and of the legacy of the Revolution. Weaving together fiction, drama, legal texts, historiographical thought and political writing, Inheritance in Nineteenth-Century French Culture teases out a complex leitmotiv that gives us a new understanding of nineteenth-century France’s sense of its own place in history. It also proposes innovative readings of writers as familiar as Honoré de Balzac, George Sand, Guy de Maupassant and Émile Zola, while drawing attention to a range of neglected authors and works.

Andrew J. Counter is Fellow and College Lecturer in French at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge.


  • ‘That the [19th] century felt disinherited is a truism. Andrew Counter's absorbing book makes clear the extent to which the inheritance laws of the Revolution, and more particularly of the Code Civil of 1804, were themselves at the core of this new cultural moment... A pleasantly written, exhaustively researched and resourcefully argued book.’ — Ross Chambers, French Forum 36.1, 2011, 140-42
  • ‘This important work charts new critical terrain... a work of fastidious scholarship, written with brio, and captivating for the reader.’ — Claire White, French Studies 65.4, 2011, 543-44
  • ‘Counter is careful to avoid unnecessary jargon; his prose is clear and the humorous asides that pepper the study, far from detracting from the argument, make this a very enjoyable read. This is a thorough, thoughtful study which elegantly weaves together literary, political, and legal discourses and in doing so sheds new light on a hitherto little-explored but extremely rich topic. At every turn, the author carefully eschews the obvious, instead choosing the path less travelled... This subtle and intelligent study succeeds in redefining our understanding of family and inheritance in the nineteenth century, and the importance of this seminal monograph should resonate widely within and beyond French Studies.’ — Floriane Place-Verghnes, Modern Language Review 107.1, January 2012, 286-87 (full text online)
  • ‘There is enough background information in this well-conceived and clearly-written study to make the analyses accessible to those unfamiliar with the works discussed, and enough original interpretation and careful referencing to make it an enjoyable and engaging read for both cultural historians and literary scholars.’ — Laurey Martin-Berg, French Review 85.3, 2012, 547-48
  • ‘Impressive in its careful historical approach, the range of material it engages, and its perceptive readings on themes of testaments, greed, crime, family, and women’s renunciation of property... Counter’s interdisciplinary book illustrates that society cannot be understood through any single model of the family or type of 'family knowledge'.’ — Sarah Bernthal, Nineteenth-Century French Studies 42.3-4, Summer 2014

Bibliography entry:

Counter, Andrew J., Inheritance in Nineteenth-Century French Culture: Wealth, Knowledge and the Family (Legenda, 2010)

First footnote reference: 35 Andrew J. Counter, Inheritance in Nineteenth-Century French Culture: Wealth, Knowledge and the Family (Legenda, 2010), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Counter, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Counter, Andrew J.. 2010. Inheritance in Nineteenth-Century French Culture: Wealth, Knowledge and the Family (Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Counter 2010: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Counter 2010: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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