Short History of France...
June 4, 2005 9:21 AM   Subscribe

Follow-up to a question I asked earlier : Has anyone read any "short" histories of France that they would recommend?

My mother has greatly appreciated all the suggestions on Napoleonic biographies, but as she's reading, she's realized she knows nothing about France. So, she'd like a good history book - something preferably less than 1,000 pages.
posted by grapefruitmoon to Writing & Language (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
With 1,000+ years of history to go through, it's hard to find a short book that tries to cover all the bases. I have not read The Course of French History by Pierre Goubert, so I can't say whether it's any good, but it's the only one that comes to mind immediately. There are plenty out there that cover a shorter period -- say, the 18th century, or since the Revolution, or the Third Republic (1870-1940), or post-WWII. I can suggest some titles if she's looking for something more specific.
posted by mcwetboy at 10:28 AM on June 4, 2005

This old standby is an interesting place to start (go to page, marvel at the joke, and then click on the "did you mean" blue text). Probably not what you had in mind though ...
posted by intermod at 10:48 AM on June 4, 2005

Response by poster: mcwetboy : Well, since she's primarily interested in Napoleon, can your recommend titles in that era or leading up to it? I assume she knows the basics of the French Revolution, but I could be mistaken. I'll check.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:37 AM on June 4, 2005

The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to Napoleon is a thorough and fairly engrossing book on the subject of France in the 18th century. It kicks off with the Sun King on his deathbed and ends with the outbreak of the Napoleonic wars. One caveat, however: Though well written, the book does go into a fair amount of dry detail about such subjects as societal trends, court politics and economic developments.
posted by the_unutterable at 12:46 PM on June 4, 2005

Try William Doyle, The Oxford History of the French Revolution.
posted by mcwetboy at 12:47 PM on June 4, 2005

Popkin's Short History of the French Revolution is the clearest history I've ever read of this period. It is 176 pages.

He also has a History of Modern France, which is 336 pages.
posted by jb at 1:26 PM on June 4, 2005

Response by poster: the_unutterable : Dry detail on such subjects is what my mother loves best. Sounds great. Thanks!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 4:08 PM on June 4, 2005

I recently read The Course of French History. It has very even coverage of the entire history of the country, which means lots of pages on the rather boring bits. Especially hundreds of years of minor Kings before Louis XV, that no one has ever heard of. Napoleon gets a decent amount of coverage of course, but he doesn't show up until 2/3 through.

Also, it's translated from the original French, and I could tell.

If you're skimming or researching, it is a fine book. If you are reading it cover to cover, I would get something else.
posted by smackfu at 1:32 PM on June 7, 2005

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