The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to Napoleon (New Penguin History of France)

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9780140130935: The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to Napoleon (New Penguin History of France)

There can be few more mesmerizing historical narratives than the story of how the confident monarchy left by Louis XIV in 1715 became the discredited failure toppled by revolution in 1789. This brilliant new book is the first in forty years to describe the whole period, from the last days of the “Sun King” to the wars of Napoleon. In a groundbreaking work of scholarship, Colin Jones argues that, contrary to popular belief, the house of Bourbon’s downfall was hardly a foregone conclusion. Producing an illuminating account of a society torn apart from within, he recounts the saga of how a dynamic French society—the heart of the Enlightenment—fell prey to the debt and humiliation of its wars against Britain.

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About the Author:

Colin Jones is professor of history at the University of Warwick, England.

From Publishers Weekly:

Historian Jones (The Cambridge Illustrated History of France) has written an exhaustive account of 18th-century France, emphasizing political and economic history. He paints a portrait of a nation opposed to Bourbon absolutism throughout the century, not just at the time of the Revolution. Beginning in the waning years of Louis XIV, philosophers, Jansenists, taxpayers and especially the Paris Parlement, which saw itself as the defender of fundamental law, all criticized the Bourbon regime, pointing to its unwise, revenue-draining wars; persecution of religious dissidents; and ruling in a manner unresponsive to the public will. As Jones convincingly points out, the French Enlightenment changed everything, bringing to the fore a concept of "popular opinion" that would lead the French to believe they had a voice in how their nation was governed. Increasingly after 1750, public opinion became a powerful antiabsolutist influence. Jones devotes an excellent chapter to the Encyclopedie, which he says symbolized a crucial change in French culture and politics. Jones also details the intricate politics of the century, explaining how the monarchs' principal ministers attempted to prop up Bourbon authority and revenues. On the Revolution, Jones is first-rate, especially in depicting the bloody factional feuding between the Jacobins and Girondins. He finishes his book with the Directory and the 1799 coup of Napoleon Bonaparte. This is an outstanding book for academics and students looking for a one-volume overview of the century, but perhaps too dense for the general readers other than those devoted to French history. Two maps.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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