There can be few more mesmerising historical narratives than the story of how the dazzlingly confident and secure monarchy Louis XIV, 'the Sun King', left to his successors in 1715 became the discredited, debt-ridden failure toppled by Revolution in1789. The further story of the bloody unravelling of the Revolution until its seizure by Napoleon is equally astounding. Colin Jones' brilliant new book is the first in 40 years to describe the whole period. Jones' key point in this gripping narrative is that France was NOT doomed to Revolution and that the 'ancien regime' DID remain dynamic and innovatory, twisting and turning until finally stoven in by the intolerable costs and humiliation of its wars with Britain.
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(198mm x 129mm x 29mm)
Penguin Books Ltd
Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
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UK Kirkus Review »
In this ambitious work Colin Jones, Professor of History at Warwick University, examines the history of France in the 18th century, from the reign of Louis XV to the rise of Napoleon. Unusually, Jones addresses the period as a whole. Instead of regarding the demise of the 'Ancien Regime' as a neat end to one era and the Revolutionary years as the start of another, he looks at the continuities between the two. As a result the final decades of Bourbon absolutism are not seen as a time of inevitable and decadent decline, but in many ways as an age of dynamism, confidence and energy. The history opens with a brief survey of the last years of the Sun King Louis XIV, illustrating the monarchy's increasing dependence upon displays of grandeur, and then proceeds through the reigns of Louis XV, the ill-fated Louis XVI and the Revolutionary regime up to Bonaparte's rise to power. Jones skilfully blends meticulous and detailed scholarship with a narrative drive that maintains the interest of the general reader throughout. This approach ensures that major themes and events from the legal system to Jansenism, the Encyclopedie and the Seven Years War receive the attention they demand without ever becoming bogged down in over-elaborate detail. The same goes for the key figures involved. The impact of the royal family, revolutionaries and such individuals as Fleury, John Law, Madame de Pompadour, Diderot and Rousseau is discussed and analysed in depth, and all emerge as distinctive and charismatic individuals. Jones makes readers look afresh at one of the most fascinating periods in French history, and by dispelling the traditional view of the Bourbon regime as a corrupt and bloated entity doomed to failure he makes the shock of 1789 seem all the greater. This is a fine history, insightful, descriptive and academic, but always highly readable. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Colin Jones
Colin Jones is Professor of History at the University of Warwick and is now writing PARIS: A HISTORY for Allen Lane.