Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban


Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban : biography

15 May 1633 – 30 March 1707

Although indispensable to Louis XIV, Vauban boldly stretched his goodwill on several occasions. In 1685, Vauban vocally condemned the repeal of the edict of Nantes. It appears that his opposition was based mostly on economic grounds. In the 1690s, he conducted a comprehensive census of Flanders and other areas of France, which earned him his nickname as the "French Petty". A prolific writer on many subjects, including forestry, selective breeding of domestic pigs, monetary policy, and colonisation, Vauban was made an honorary member of the French Academy of Sciences. Applying his knowledge, he even correctly estimated and plotted out the growth of Canada, predicting that its population would be about 30 million by the year 2000.

Dismayed by the inefficiency of the French fiscal system, and deeply impressed with the deplorable condition of the peasantry whose labor he regarded as the main foundation of all wealth, Vauban’s 1707 tract, Projet d’une dixme. royale, protested against the unequal incidence of taxation and the exemptions and privileges of the upper classes; the tract called for the repeal of all taxes and the imposition of a single 10% tax (dixme. royale) on all agricultural output (payable in kind) and on income from trade and manufactures, with no exemptions. He backed up his argument with a mass of statistics. His book was condemned by the royal government because it had been published without royal permission. Vauban spent the last weeks of his life trying to collect every copy that he had disseminated privately to friends and acquaintances. Nevertheless, his ideas inspired later Enlightenment economists, such as Forbonnais, Mirabeau and the Physiocrats.

Vauban died in Paris, of an inflammation of the lungs. During the French Revolution his remains were scattered, but in 1808 his heart was found and deposited by order of Napoléon in the church of Les Invalides.


Between 1667 and 1707, Vauban upgraded the fortifications of around 300 cities, including Antibes (Fort Carré), Arras, Auxonne, Barraux, Bayonne, Belfort, Bergues, Citadel of Besançon, Bitche, Blaye, Briançon, Bouillon, Calais, Cambrai, Colmars-les-Alpes, Collioure, Douai, Entrevaux, Givet, Gravelines, Hendaye, Huningue, Joux, Kehl, Landau, Le Palais (Belle-Île), La Rochelle, Le Quesnoy, Lille, Lusignan, Le Perthus (Fort de Bellegarde), Luxembourg, Maastricht, Maubeuge, Metz, Mont-Dauphin, Mont-Louis, Montmédy, Namur, Neuf-Brisach, Perpignan, Plouezoc’h (Château du Taureau) , Rocroi, Saarlouis, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, Saint-Omer, Sedan, Toul, Valenciennes, Verdun, Villefranche-de-Conflent (town and Fort Liberia), and Ypres.

He directed the building of 37 new fortresses, and fortified military harbours, including Ambleteuse, Brest, Dunkerque, Freiburg im Breisgau, Lille (Citadel of Lille), Rochefort, Saint-Jean-de-Luz (Fort Socoa), Saint-Martin-de-Ré, Toulon, Wimereux, Le Portel, and Cézembre.

Image:Neuf-Brisach 007 850.jpg|Neuf-Brisach, fortified town. Image:Fortification of Huningue.jpg|Vauban’s fortification of Huningue on the Rhine.