I would really like to know the price of bread in France during the entire revolutionary and Napoleonic era. I am aware it was high in 1789, but couldn't find hard data for further years.

All my searching so far, only talks about the very early years, usually only 1789. Britannica does not give hard numbers. Selfstudyhistory says it rose 67% in 1789 but doesn't give an actual price, nor does Wikipedia. One Quora Answer says it rose "from nine sous to fifteen in 1789" but doesn't have a citation.

Does such data exist for all years 1789-1815 (as in actual prices in Livres or Francs)? I am very curious if it ever stabilized or decreased at any point.

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    This is going to be tricky. Prices varied from region to region and also depended on the quality of the bread and what it was made from. Focusing on a specific region would largely solve the first problem. Note also the Laws of the General Maximum of May and Sept. 1793 which attempted (not very successfully) to regulate prices of basic goods, including bread. Dec 12, 2022 at 15:16
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    I would suggest looking for relevant articles in the Journal of Economic History. If such data exists there's a very good chance someone cited it somewhere in there.
    – Brian Z
    Dec 12, 2022 at 15:37
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    Cool question - good preliminary research, which strongly suggests that somewhere the information exists.
    – MCW
    Dec 13, 2022 at 12:55
  • It would also be interesting to know if the government pulled any help to diminish the price of bread? Apr 2, 2023 at 12:03

1 Answer 1


According to Sylvia Neely's A Concise History of the French Revolution, the average 18th-century worker spent half his daily wage on bread. But when the grain crops failed two years in a row, in 1788 and 1789, the price of bread shot up to 88 percent of his wages.

In early 1789, the price of a four-pound loaf of bread in Paris increased from nine sous to 14.5 sous, almost a full day’s pay for most unskilled labourers.

Source: Alpha History – The Third Estate

  • You are assuming that unskilled labourers bought their bread. While the retail price of a loaf reflects flour prices, you have no basis to assume that the poorest labourers bought their basic food needs in that finished form, or at that retail price. You are drawing conclusions from the cited material that are both unsupported by the source, and an innumerate summary analysis of it. Apr 1, 2023 at 20:50
  • You have presented no detailed demographic data that would support the assertion that the "average 18th-century worker" was the unskilled labourer discussed by the source. Further the question inquires about France in total and your source is presenting data only about Paris. These are all specifics that matter greatly to an accurate and valuable answer. Cities in general have access only to rural food surplus; and I doubt that the vast majority of the French lived in Paris in the 1780's - and certainly weren't paying Parisian retail prices for basic foodstuffs.. Apr 1, 2023 at 20:57
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    The population of France in 1789 is estimated at 28 million, while the population of Paris that year is estimated at 600,000 to 650,000. That makes Paris only about 3% the population of France, while noting that it was a politically very important 3%. Apr 1, 2023 at 21:02

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