Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Sébastien Le Prestre, Seigneur de Vauban (May 15, 1633 - March 30, 1707), commonly referred to as Vauban, was a Marshal of France and the foremost military engineer of his age, famed for both his ability to design fortifications and to break through them.
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 mostly made 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, e.g. forestry, pig breeding, monetary policy, colonization, etc., 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 its population would be about 30 million by the year 2000.
Dismayed by the inefficiency of Colbertism , Vauban's 1707 tract called for the repeal of all taxes and the imposition of a single tax of 10% on all land and trade with no exemptions. He backed up his argument with a mass of statistics. It was not well-received at the time (the king shunned him thereafter), but it inspired later Enlightenment economists, such as Forbonnais , Mirabeau and the Physiocrats.
He was made Marshal of France on January 14, 1703. He also advised Louis XIV on how to consolidate France's borders, to make them more defensible. He made the radical suggestion of giving up some land that was indefensible to allow for a stronger, less porous border with France's neighbours.
He directed the building of 37 new fortresses, and fortified military harbors, including:
- De l'attaque et de la défense des places ("On Siege and Fortification") (1737, many reprints since).
- A Manual of Siegecraft and Fortification, transl. George A. Rothrock, (Ann Arbor, 1968).
- Marshal Vauban Homepage (much detail)
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