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The Splendid Century: Life in the France of Louis XIV
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Top Customer Reviews
As the author points out in the introduction, the book might have been better titled "Some Aspects of Life in the Reign of Louis XIV;" rather than present a sequential narrative, Lewis chose to structure the book as a series of essays on particular aspects. There are chapters on the king and his court, the religious situation, the organisation of the army and the state of the peasantry. Among the unexpected pleasures of the book are the chapters on sea voyages, the world of the galleys and the education of women. A surprising omission, however, is a discussion of Colbert and his attempts at administrative reform. Nevertheless, this is a fine work of history that can be strongly recommended.
Like his brother, C.S., Warren Lewis has that stereotyped but still very real and precious commodity of English commonsense. His good-humored rationality flavors the book but not to the detriment of the subject. Lewis was, afterall, writing about Louis XIV's France, not 20th century England. As with all the best historians, Lewis has the ability to see the world from outside the ideologies and pressures of the present. More than once, he cautions the reader against applying current century thinking to a 17th century problem or event.
But tone is where Lewis excels. Personable without being chatty, humorous without being sarcastic, A Splendid Century is amazingly relaxing to read, especially allowing for the subject matter and Lewis' fact-filled prose.
Recommendation: Buy it.
However, this book covers much more than Versilles. You get to see what the majority of France was like during the period outside the court. Why the country was loathed by all courtiers, the real definition of a stinking Paris. How to get caught out at dinner for wrong ettiqute. Why you *didn't* want to end up on the Galleys and what your chances of education would have been like.
The author makes it clear that it is hard to make generalisations about this period in France, but he does his best to give us examples of the confusion and differences people experienced during the period.
If you think our taxes are bad today. Read this book and thank your lucky stars you aren't living in 17th cent France.
All in all this is a very enlightening read and highly recommended to anybody who wants a real glimpse of what the *real* France was like under Louis 14th.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This a wonderfully informative book. If you want to know what life was like in the 17th century, this is a great start.Published 8 months ago by Amazon Customer
This book gave an excellent overview of the country, including the life of the king, those who lived at Versailles, nobility in the countryside, the poor, women, etc. Read morePublished on December 4, 2012 by Austin21
Read this book as a younger man. But Lord Acton summed up that "Splendid Century" with far less infatuation than Lewis:
"One who lived on intimate terms with Louis XIV. Read more
Written with utmost style and panache, this book fully warrants all the praise others on this site have lavished upon it. Read morePublished on December 28, 2011 by Charles J. Edwards
This book is confusing when it concludes that the reign of Louis XIV was a "splendid century" when its pages are almost nothing but misery and backwardness. Read morePublished on December 6, 2011 by Freyja's Books
Read all of the other lavish reviews of this book to discover the profound impact this work has had on some people. Yes, it is informative. Read morePublished on March 23, 2010 by Amazon Customer
I read this account of French society under Louis XIV as a college freshman. It is excellent history and the writing is generally clear. Read morePublished on February 6, 2010 by Mr. Claggart
This is one of the most fun books of history you will ever be lucky enough to read. It covers some aspects of 17th Century French history, with the greatest proportion of the book... Read morePublished on September 22, 2006 by Constant Librarian
Mr.W.H.Lewis, brother of Mr.C.S., projects his fondness for the 17th century with bravado in The Splendid Century. Read morePublished on November 26, 2000 by Shane M. Conway