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Jean-Baptiste Colbert

Lord of Vandières and Cernay
Portrait de Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1655)
by Philippe de Champaigne
First Minister of State
In office
9 March 1661 – 6 September 1683
Monarch Louis XIV
Preceded by Jules Raymond Mazarin
Succeeded by The Marquis of Louvois
Secretary of State of the Navy
In office
7 March 1669 – 6 September 1683
Monarch Louis XIV
Preceded by The Marquis of Fresnes
Succeeded by The Marquis of Seignelay
Secretary of State of the Maison du Roi
In office
16 February 1669 – 6 September 1683
Monarch Louis XIV
Preceded by Antoine de Ratabon
Succeeded by The Marquis of Louvois
Controller-General of Finances
In office
12 December 1665 – 6 September 1683
Monarch Louis XIV
Preceded by Louis Le Tonnelier
Succeeded by Claude Le Peletier
Personal details
Born (1619-08-29)29 August 1619
Reims, France
Died 6 September 1683(1683-09-06) (aged 64)
Paris, France
Resting place Saint-Eustache, Paris
Nationality French
Marie Charron (m. 1648–1683)
  • Jean-Baptiste
  • Jacques Nicolas
  • Jean-Jules-Armand
Nickname(s) Le Grand Colbert
(The Great Colbert)
Academic career
School or
  • Josiah Child
  • Barthélemy de Laffemas
Contributions Colbertism
Awards Order of the Holy Spirit
Signatur Jean-Baptiste Colbert.PNG

Jean-Baptiste Colbert ( 29 August 1619 – 6 September 1683) was a French statesman who served as First Minister of State from 1661 until his death in 1683 under the rule of King Louis XIV. His lasting impact on the organisation of the country's politics and markets, known as Colbertism, a doctrine often characterised as a variant of mercantilism, earned him the nickname le Grand Colbert ( "the Great Colbert").

A native of Reims, he was appointed Intendant of Finances on 4 May 1661. Colbert took over as Controller-General of Finances, a newly-elevated position, in the aftermath of the arrest of Nicolas Fouquet for embezzlement, an event that led to the abolishment of the office of Superintendent of Finances. He worked to develop the domestic economy by raising tariffs and encouraging major public works projects, as well as to ensure that the French East India Company had access to foreign markets, so that they could always obtain coffee, cotton, dyewoods, fur, pepper and sugar. He acted to create a favourable balance of trade and increase colonial holdings. As there was slavery in the colonies, Colbert also drafted the Code Noir which was to be promulgated two years after his death. In addition, he founded France's merchant navy (marine marchande) becoming Secretary of State of the Navy in 1669.

His effective market reforms included the foundation of the Manufacture royale de glaces de miroirs in 1665 to supplant the importation of Venetian glass, which was forbidden in 1672 as soon as the national glass manufacturing industry was on sound footing. Also encouraging the technical expertise of Flemish cloth manufacturing in France, he founded royal tapestry works at Gobelins and supported those at Beauvais. He issued more than 150 edicts to regulate the guilds. The Académie des sciences was founded in 1666 at his suggestion; he was a member of the Académie française from 1 March 1667 to his death, where he occupied the 24th seat, to which Jean de La Fontaine would be elected after his passing. His son Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Marquis de Seignelay (1651–1690) succeeded him as Navy Secretary.

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