Artists, martyrs, kings, revolutionaries: France’s sense of national identity is inextricably linked to its dramatic history, which fascinates the world and attracts millions each year to visit its chateaux and cathedrals, boulevards and vineyards. Ancient roots allied to a social, political and military history that has witnessed revolution, conflict and occupation mean that France holds a unique position in the modern world. In this short, easy-to-digest history of a vast subject, Jeremy Black succinctly narrates how France’s past has created its distinct character.
Country and destination, nation and idea, France has an incomparable cultural legacy, and exerts a powerful artistic, intellectual and political influence across the globe. Black’s vivid take on history emphasizes the unexpected nature of events and unpredictable outcomes on a fragmented country, from the prehistoric cave paintings of Lascaux to the origins of Gothic architecture, from Monet and Degas to the Lumière brothers, and from the cataclysm of the 1789 Revolution through the countercultural student protests of 1968 to today’s gilets jaunes. Black’s concise, insightful tour of the key historical moments and vibrant personalities that shaped France provides an indispensable guide to understanding the country today.
'A superb account of 2,000 years of France and the French in the making by a master of his craft. Bold insights and evocative detail are combined in a narrative that is a pleasure to read. A tour de force'
Robert Gildea, Professor of Modern History, University of Oxford
'Readers of his many previous works will not be disappointed by this addition to the Jeremy Black canon. Encyclopaedic knowledge and a lifelong enthusiasm for visiting French historical sites underpin his new concise survey of French history from prehistoric times right down to Emmanuel Macron'
William Doyle, Professor Emeritus of History, University of Bristol
'An excellent and thought-provoking introduction to the history of France. Concisely and accessibly written, it skilfully interweaves long-term social, cultural and even climatic factors with the more familiar narrative of wars, revolutions and coups d’état. In particular, and in a highly stimulating way, it shows just how much the shape of today’s France, both geographical and political, owes to sheer chance'
Munro Price, Professor of Modern European History, University of Bradford
'The perfect history book for anyone travelling to France. Packed with information from the Sun King to Monet, via chateaux and artists’ cafes, this is an adroit whistle-stop tour illuminating the very essence of La France'
Waterstones, History Books of the Year