For writers covering the 15th-18th century in France, I recommend Fernand Braudel’s two volumes on Civilization and Capitalism, in the English translations.
Volume I. The Structures of Everyday Life copyright 1981. Harper & Row publishers.
This book covers French and world populations, towns and densities, regimes, epidemics, famines, invaders, food, houses, clothing, technology and money. It is a treasury of all things in everyday life for the writer or reader of historical works about France.
Volume II. The Wheels of Commerce. Copyright 1982.
The book covers trade within France and with the rest of Europe, fairs and market towns, depots, the stock exchanges, the rest of the world during this time, capitalism, land use, money, poverty, the West Indies, the Mediterranean, pre-industrial Europe, industrial Europe, transportation, companies, social mobility and the State itself.
Writers and readers should know how internationally exposed people were in the past and most of that exposure came through commerce at local trade fairs on up to sea ports in foreign lands. Braudel is easy to read, with great detail.
Fernand Braudel is an historian of great renown, born in 1902 who taught in Algeria, Paris and Brazil. He was a prisoner of war (WWII) in Germany for five years, during which time he wrote his thesis THE MEDITERRANEAN AND THE MEDITERRANEAN WORLD IN THE AGE OF PHILIP II, published in 1949. He has written other histories that are equally interesting.
Review by Priscilla Watkins