Publication Date: Apr 09, 2019
A fresh, provocative history that renews our understanding of France in the world through short, intriguing articles ranging from prehistoric frescoes to Coco Chanel to the terrorist attacks of 2015.
Bringing together an impressive group of established and up-and-coming historians, this bestselling history conceives of France not as a fixed, rooted entity, but instead as a place and an idea in flux, moving beyond all borders and frontiers, shaped by exchanges and mixtures. Presented in chronological order from 34,000 BC to 2015, each chapter covers a significant year from its own particular angle—the marriage of a Viking leader to a Carolingian princess proposed by Charles the Fat in 882, the Persian embassy to the court of Louis XIV in 1715, the Chilean coup d’état against President Salvador Allende in 1973 that mobilized a generation of French left-wing activists.
France in the World combines the intellectual rigor of an academic work with the liveliness and readability of popular history. With a brand-new introduction aimed at an international audience, this English- language edition will be an essential resource for Francophiles and scholars alike.
Excerpt from France in the World
It’s early spring, 36,000 years ago. They are walking toward the cave. He, the youngest, follows behind, knowing how lucky he is. Last year, they stopped in the area only briefly. Everything had still been frozen, battered by the winds, and the game had been too scarce to support them for long. This year, spring has come earlier. The herds of horse and bison will be more abundant, so they’ve decided to spend the season here, pitch their tents in the shelter of the cave, by the river, at the foot of the path they are on. And he’s going with them. When they arrive, the man who knows the cave best slips in to scout it out, emerging after a time to say that he hasn’t detected any bear—in fact, they’d find only the dried carcass of a bear, one that had died in hibernation long ago. They enter, the boy still in the rear. The walls dance and flicker in the torchlight. The others stop, after traveling a considerable distance, and tell him to close his eyes. When he opens them, he is looking at rhinoceroses, painted in ochre, and also at lions and a mammoth. Not far away are handprints, stenciled in red, and one of them is pointed out to him as the mark left by the mother of his mother. He places his own hand on it and feels the cool, damp limestone. Continuing on their way, at a certain point, they lower their torches and hasten their steps. They glimpse reindeer in the distance, outlined in black, and, at a greater distance beyond them, horses, aurochs, and rhinos. But he can’t be certain, and his eyes are drawn to a roaring fire at the entrance to a gallery. Who lit it? He passes close to it, and the smoke makes his eyes smart. He grips the tunic of the man in front of him as they slowly descend into the gallery where, when he’s allowed to look, he sees the mystery of a world born of extraordinary violence. He feels that, even if he may not relate the story being told here to anyone, it has already changed the way he sees.
“An eclectic and forward-looking history…engaging…Patrick Boucheron and his merry band of historians have succeeded in putting more dynamic and inclusive…visions of Frenchness back into the limelight…their bracing scholarship looks set to shape the agenda of historical research and civic debate in France for years to come.” —Times Literary Supplement
“After several decades of somnolence, academic history is a hit…[France in the World] marks the arrival of a new generation of historians, full of energy and élan…in hooking essays onto events, [this collection] forces the reader to see the past from a different perspective, one that is not merely global but also connected with current issues.” —Robert Darnton, New York Review of Books
“How often does one come upon a book produced by dozens of authors covering centuries that is absolutely a joy to read! This collection of essays reframes French history by expanding historical time from the arrival of humans in ‘France’ long before there is a France. The consistency of style and talent is stunning—to say nothing of the rich content. One can read this book front to back, or by choosing topics from its rich table of contents. Each ‘chapter’ is at once stand-alone and an element in the narrative of a truly longue durée.” —Thomas Bender, author of A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History
“We often say that ‘the past is a foreign country.’ France in the World brilliantly shows us that understanding the past of any country requires insistent rethinking of what foreign means. The histories in this collection render visible the often starkly political reasons certain minor distinctions are transformed into forbidding walls. Boucheron and company have pioneered an approach to ‘French’ history that we—from the other side of the Atlantic or the Channel—need in order to understand the world in which we live and how we got here.” —Todd Shepard, author of The Invention of Decolonization: The Algerian War and the Remaking of France
“From Charles the Fat to Coco Chanel, France in the World manages to be both entertaining and encyclopedic. Diderot would approve.” —Sue Prideaux, author of I Am Dynamite!: A Life of Friedrich Nietzsche
“A most inviting entree to the breadth of French history…Approachable and entertaining, yet academically driven, France in the World is written by historians intent on helping readers make use of France’s singular past.” —Foreword Reviews
“Unexpected, relevant, well done. A history of France that will count.” —Le Point
“A historiographic landmark.” —Le Monde des livres
The result of a collective work worthy of the greatest interest.” —L’Humanité