The peasant girl who led an army against the English and placed Charles VII on the French throne has inspired countless books since her death at age 19. While others have claimed Joan the Maid (as she called herself) for every cause from feminism to working-class radicalism, this meticulous volume by two French scholars sticks close to the known facts. The authors make extensive use of contemporary documents that bring to life the turbulent political scene in which Joan operated as well as her forceful personality. Joan followed the directives of voices she believed were sent to her by God; her deep piety, self-assurance, decisiveness, and shrewd intelligence radiate from her letters and from her responses to hostile questioning at the rigged trial that resulted in her being burned alive as a heretic in 1431. General readers may be intimidated at first by a detailed narrative studded with lengthy quotations, but those who persevere will discover a story all the more moving because it is not manipulated to make a modern-day point. This English translation updates the 1986 French volume's bibliography, supplements the biographies in part 2 with sketches of historical figures less familiar outside of France, and generally makes the book more accessible for English-language readers. --Wendy Smith
From Publishers Weekly
Joan of Arc means many things to many people: the incarnation of French patriotism, a Fascist mascot for anti-Semitism, the symbol of working-class resistance, the ultimate proto-feminist, the political prisoner, the innocent woman persecuted for heresy. In order to separate legend from fact, her uses from herself, Pernoud and Clin have ingeniously turned the mystifying question "Who is Joan of Arc?" into the more manageable "What is [her] historical record?" Joan's history was brief: a year of fighting, a year of imprisonment. In 1429, inspired by holy "voices," she traveled to the failing dauphin Charles (later King Charles VII) and declared that she would free the city of Orleans from his English enemies and lead him to his coronation. Shortly after fulfilling both prophesies, she was captured by the English, who tried her for heresy and burned her at the stake. In 1455, 24 years after her death, a new trial concluded that the English inquisition was improperly conducted and nullified its decision. Throughout their descriptions of these events, the authors draw upon copious letters and trial transcripts to present a vivid portrait of the young woman whose intelligence, courage, determination and unshakable faith astonished all of Europe. A brief introduction and a section of profiles of the major players make this thorough book accessible to the general reader. Though the writing is sometimes dry, Pernoud and Clin do an admirable job of bringing clarity to their complicated subject. This is the first English translation of a book published in 1986 in France. 12 illustrations, 8 maps.
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