A History of Franceby John Julius Norwich
The world-renowned historian John Julius Norwich has delivered the book he has always wanted to write: a single-volume history of France
John Julius Norwich—called a “true master of narrative history” by Simon Sebag Montefiore—returns with the book he has spent his distinguished career wanting to write, A History of France: a portrait of the past two centuries of the country he loves best.
Beginning with Julius Caesar’s conquest of Gaul in the first century BC, this study of French history comprises a cast of legendary characters—Charlemagne, Louis XIV, Napoleon, Joan of Arc and Marie Antionette, to name a few—as Norwich chronicles France’s often violent, always fascinating history. From the French Revolution—after which neither France, nor the world, would be the same again—to the storming of the Bastille, from the Vichy regime and the Resistance to the end of the Second World War, A History of France is packed with heroes and villains, battles and rebellion, stories so enthralling that Norwich declared, “I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed writing a book more.”
With his celebrated stylistic panache and expert command of detail, Norwich writes in an inviting, intimate tone, and with a palpable affection for France. One of our greatest contemporary historians has deftly crafted a comprehensive yet concise portrait of the country’s historical sweep.
“The major achievement of this book is the very fact that Norwich takes each of the four rulers to be a piece of the same story . . . written with often humming literary verve.” —New York Times Book Review
“With characteristic deftness of touch, Norwich brings each character vividly to life and skillfully weaves their stories together . . . a genuinely inspired idea for a book, and Norwich executes it with typical aplomb.” ―Tracy Borman, BBC History Magazine
“A fascinating quadruple biography of four of the greatest monarchs of the Renaissance by this true master of narrative history.” ―Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of The Romanovs and Jerusalem: The Biography
“Norwich’s long career as a historian has given him a definite assurance of style, which allows him to present historical detail in a thoroughly engaging manner without sacrificing clarity.” ―Library Journal
This book is intended only for the general reader, to whom the French rather charmingly refer as l’homme moyen sensual, and is written in the belief that the average English-speaking man or woman has remarkably little knowledge of French history. We may know a bit about Napoleon or Joan of Arc or Louis XIV, but for most of us that’s about it. In my own three schools we were taught only about the battles we won: Crécy and Poitiers, Agincourt and Waterloo.
So here is my attempt to fill in the blanks…I want to talk about the wonderful Madame de Pompadour and the odious Madame de Maintenon; about Louis-Philippe, almost forgotten today but probably the best king France ever had; and that’s just for a start. Chapter I covers the ground pretty fast, taking us from the Gauls and Julius Caesar to Charlemagne, about eight centuries. But as we continue the pace inevitably slackens. Chapter 21 deals only with the five years of the Second World War. And with that we stop. All history books must have a clearly defined stopping place.