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A Brief History of France Paperback – June 28, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

In this broad and ambitious drama of two millennia, the characterization of the major players brings pungency and colour to every event. From Capetian kings to Republican presidents, from anonymous cave artists to celebrated writers and intellectuals of recent times it is the personality of politics and the politics of personality which make this book a particular pleasure to recommend for any voyage of discovery of the French past and present. -- Rod Kedward, author of La Vie en Bleu: France and the French since 1900. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Cecil Jenkins is the Dean of European Studies at Sussex University. He has written books on Francois Mauriac and Andre Malraux, as well as other twentieth century French writers. He lives in London.
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Product Details

  • Series: Brief History Of...
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press; 1 Original edition (June 28, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762441208
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762441204
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #182,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I suppose this book was written for a readership which is pretty well new to the subject, and which is more interested, as I think the author is, in recent than in more distant centuries. As such it is a workmanlike, if uneven, summary of the whole of French history in a mere 300 or so pages - uneven because the first half of the book takes us from the Cro-Magnon cave-dwellers to the 1880s, and the second half from the 1880s right up to the end of 2010. Jenkins gallops through the first 15 centuries in 45 pages; trots at a fair lick through the next 270 years in some 60 pages; then begins to slow down somewhat, until the last four decades are covered remarkably well in some 65 pages - much the best part of the book. He makes room for comments about the most important cultural figures, and these remarks, too, grow from a useful sentence or two in the middle of the book to more extensive passages as we go on. It is all a remarkable feat of compression. The penultimate chapter considers what might be the nature of the "French Exception", and there are a few similar pages at the very end; but, apart from that, there are no new reflections; and anyone who knows anything about any one period of French history is unlikely to learn anything new from the relevant pages - though there are some titbits like the Astérix view of the ancient Gauls; the church in the eleventh century trying to impose "The Truce of God" (that there should be no fighting between a Wednesday evening and a Monday morning); the homosexuality of Louis XIII (which was new to me, at any rate); the British attempt to blow up Napoleon Bonaparte in 1800 as he left the opening night of Haydn's Creation oratorio (ditto).
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This book offers exactly what I was looking for, a history of France that mentions pre-Revolution events without emphasizing them. In fact, the nearer to the present, the more detail given. It is written with a view of France from several vantage points (not just "academic" history, but art, music, political aspirations of key individuals, architecture, attitude of the people, food/wine, The French Exception, etc.). The author's writing style is also very pleasing to me, but of course that is purely personal and not everyone would (or should) agree.

Get the book! I believe you'll like it.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this book to prepare for a month tour of France. It is written from a Brittan's point of view who assumes some level of basic understanding of European history for overall context. The author's vocabulary and sentence structure is is very sophisticated and British. He objectively delves into the complexities of French history sufficiently, without too much detail, to enable the understanding of the key personalities and events that shaped the French nation and culture of today. This book has given me a good non-judgemental understanding of French history and an appreciation of how and why the French culture evolved to what it is today.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In addition to having the advantage of actually being concise, this book is a wonderful overview of French history, both for the novice or for the student of French history. It provides just at the right level of detail for either audience. For the astute reader, there is also quite a bit of well-synthesized analysis about French history and culture. The book is well written and easy to read. I especially liked how the chapters on more recent history were written. The author puts modern politics into perspective in the framework of a rapidly changing society.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was looking for a book to provide the big picture of French history prior to a 1st trip there. This one fit the need perfectly to provide an overview for context and detail for particular times and locations. It was easy and fun to read.
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This is a horrible introduction for people who are unfamiliar to France's history. Granted the author tries to pack as many subjects as he can within 300+ pages, but it comes as a jumbled list of names and dates. I read this for leisure not for an assignment but I found it immensely frustrating. To make an analogy of the writing style: imagine yourself sitting with a friend and reminiscing memories that are exclusive to the both of you. "remember when Charles de Gaulle did this?", "I still can't believe Charlemagne did that! haha" As someone unfamiliar to French history/culture, I felt like that awkward guest at your friend's reunion party. Mind you that I am in no way criticizing the author's capability and I'm sure many do find the book enjoyable, as other reviews testify. But if you are a beginner in French culture, you might want to look somewhere else.
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Wife and I took this book on our tablets for a trip to France. Both of us found the book to be challenging because the author jumbles the narrative and events. Provides a basic overview of French history without doing so in a comfortable manner. We both found digging down through French history articles in Wikipedia to be more enjoyable and enlightening.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A well documented history of France. I wanted to get a better sense of how the Gaul of Caesar morphed into the diverse country of Paris and Bordeaux. Some of the info is somewhat dry, but the beauty of digi allows skimming to later parts. Enjoy!
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