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Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-1683). French economic statesman Jean-Baptiste Colbert. Colbert was appointed comptroller general of finances (1665) by King Louis XIV. He scaled down public debt, successfully increasing French exports in exchange for precious metals, a policy known as mercantilism. He encouraged the growth of industry, oversaw the construction of shipyards, arsenals and harbours, and began the construction of a large navy. He also patronized the arts and sciences, founding the Paris Observatory and the Academy of Sciences. He had to raise taxes to fund the wars waged by Louis XIV, causing Colbert great unpopularity.
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