Cover image for France : a modern history from the Revolution to the War with Terror / Jonathan Fenby.
Title:
France : a modern history from the Revolution to the War with Terror / Jonathan Fenby.
ISBN:
9781250096838
Edition:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 2016
Physical Description:
xxxix, 536 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published: The history of modern France. London : Simon & Schuster, 2015.
Contents:
Part 1: Restoration and revolution 1815-1848. Restoration ; Reaction and revolution ; Citizen king ; Sharpening the knife -- Part 2: Republicanism and empire 1848-1870. The impossible dream ; From Prince President to Emperor ; The opportunistic empire ; Reform and disaster -- Part 3: The Third Republic 1870-1940. The bloody week ; A good little republic ; The men of the middle ; From the affair to war ; The troubled peace ; Tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise -- Part 4: Vichy, De Gaulle and the unloved republic 1940-1958. Two Frances ; Liberation ; Seeking a new course ; The unloved republic ; The end of a republic -- Part 5: The Fifth Republic 1958-2015. New regime, new times ; Decline and fall ; The banker, the prince and the Florentine ; Bulldozer, bling and normal ; The weight of history.
Abstract:
"With the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, the next two centuries for France would be tumultuous. Critically acclaimed historian and political commentator Jonathan Fenby provides an expert and riveting journey through this period as he recounts and analyzes the extraordinary sequence of events of this period from the end of the First Revolution through two others, a return of Empire, three catastrophic wars with Germany, periods of stability and hope interspersed with years of uncertainty and high tensions. As her cross-channel neighbor Great Britain would equally suffer, France was to undergo the wrenching loss of colonies in the post-Second World War era as the new modern world we know today took shape. Her attempts to become the leader of the European Union was a constant struggle, as was her lack of support for America in the two Gulf Wars of the past twenty years. Alongside this came huge social changes and cultural landmarks, but also fundamental questioning of what this nation, which considers itself exceptional, really stood--and stands--for. That saga and those questions permeate the France of today, now with an implacable enemy to face in the form of Islamic extremism which so bloodily announced itself this year in Paris. Fenby will detail every event, every struggle, and every outcome across this expanse of 200 years. It will prove to be the definitive guide to understanding France."--Provided by publisher.
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Summary

Summary

With the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Waterloo in June 1815, the next two centuries for France would be tumultuous. Critically acclaimed historian and political commentator Jonathan Fenby provides an expert and riveting journey through this period as he recounts and analyzes the extraordinary sequence of events of this period from the end of the First Revolution through two others, a return of Empire, three catastrophic wars with Germany, periods of stability and hope interspersed with years of uncertainty and high tensions.

As her cross-channel neighbor Great Britain would equally suffer, France was to undergo the wrenching loss of colonies in the post-Second World War era as the new modern world we know today took shape. Her attempts to become the leader of the European union was a constant struggle, as was her lack of support for America in the two Gulf Wars of the past twenty years. Alongside this came huge social changes and cultural landmarks, but also fundamental questioning of what this nation, which considers itself exceptional, really stood--and stands--for. That saga and those questions permeate the France of today, now with an implacable enemy to face in the form of Islamic extremism which so bloodily announced itself this year in Paris. Fenby will detail every event, every struggle, and every outcome across this expanse of 200 years. It will prove to be the definitive guide to understanding France.


Author Notes

JONATHAN FENBY is a former editor of the UK Observer and of the South China Morning Post . He is the author of several books including the acclaimed The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved and Chiang Kai-shek: China's Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost . In 2013 Jonathan was awarded the Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur by the French government for his contribution towards understanding between Britain and France.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this unsatisfying history, Fenby (Will China Dominate the 21st Century?), a British financial consultant and former journalist, aims to illuminate France's apparent 21st-century cultural, political, and economic "morosité" by digging into its past. He subscribes to the hoary notion, widely shared on both sides of the Atlantic, that France remains caught in the tension between the poles of the French Revolution: order and liberty, the past and the present. "More than most nations, France carries the weight of its history in its view of itself," Fenby offers as an unverifiable platitude. Though his organizing idea-that France always pits "the two sides descended from the Revolution against one another"-is conventional, he relates the history of the Gallic people since 1789 in jaunty style. The events of over two centuries come thick and fast; unsurprisingly, his pages accumulate too much detail as he approaches the present. But his humorous stories (mostly of the mighty) are delightful. Belying the book's light touch, Fenby ends on a rueful note-that "the French have become prisoners of the heritage of their past." Is that what distinguishes French history from other nations' histories? It's not convincing. One wishes that Fenby had found a fresher way to see things. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

ODDLY, PHILIPPE Pétain, who led the French government that collaborated with the Nazis in World War II, made a statement for the official obituary of the resistance leader and president Charles de Gaulle. Pétain's assessment that de Gaulle, while alive, had been "an incomparable officer in all respects" is true enough. What makes it odd is that, by the time de Gaulle died in 1970, Pétain had been dead for decades. The obituary appeared in error in 1916 , De Gaulle - bayoneted, gassed and captured during Germany's relentless attack on Verdun - was assumed to be among the hundreds of thousands dead. General Pétain, who helped repel the German offensive, was called a savior of his nation. By the time of de Gaulle's actual death, things had changed: Pétain was infamous for the dishonorable peace he had concluded. De Gaulle held the role of national savior for having resisted him. Jonathan Fenby, who has been a correspondent in Paris for The Economist and other publications, tells this story midway through his chatty new book, "France: A Modern History From the Revolution to the War With Terror." At several points since its revolution in 1789, France has undergone shocking political vicissitudes. We're at such a point now. Amid economic stagnation, France must assimilate millions of Muslims descended mostly from North African immigrants. Isis-linked terrorists have slaughtered hundreds in targeted assassinations, cafe shootings, a music hall hostage-taking and a truck hijacking. President François Hollande has responded with a mix of hyperactivity and indecision. Fenby blames the revolution. "The French," he writes, "have become prisoners of the heritage of their past." This is a familiar paradox - or, for those less sympathetic to France, a familiar hypocrisy. The overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy was carried out in the name of ideologies so ambitious, progressive and nonnegotiable that they risked sending the country headlong to its destruction. When Robespierre brought in the guillotine, even revolutionary sympathizers longed for prerevolutionary authoritarianism, conservatism and piety. Napoleon was the short-term result. The long-term one was modern French culture: a dynamic but not necessarily logical combination of the progressive and the conservative. The heroes of Fenby's account are those who balance both traditions. The "Citizen King" Louis-Philippe, simple and physically courageous, was an enthusiast for democracy. The France of his era, the 1830s and '40s, was creative. The country's inventions were spreading around the world: the stethoscope, Braille, the sewing machine, Balzac's novels and (eventually) Baudelaire's poems. Napoleon III, elected in 1848 and made emperor through a plebiscite four years later, gave France "a lot to be proud of," Fenby thinks - not just the rebuilding of Paris but also pasteurization, margarine, batteries, hypodermic needles and bicycles. (Fenby is fond of lists.) Finally, de Gaulle, of whom Fenby published a biography in 2012, headed the wartime resistance and became, in the 1960s, "the most successful leader France had in the 200 years covered by this book." Fenby dislikes leaders unable to keep tradition and progress in balance. The reactionary Charles X, whose dogmatism brought on the July Revolution of 1830, was "a weak character with an empty mind bereft of the imagination or the courage to enforce his will when the test came." François Mitterrand, president in the 1980s and '90s, was "unprincipled," Fenby writes, blaming him for "an economic record that bore down on the French for three decades." With a good feel for political atmosphere, Fenby sees how the postNapoleonic settlement of the Congress of Vienna left France feeling like occupied territory. This made even the relatively mild rule of Louis-Philippe feel oppressive and reactionary. He appreciates the canniness of the German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, who, far from worrying about the schemes of Napoleon III to colonize Africa and the Far East, viewed them as a distraction that would strengthen Germany's relative position in Europe. He understands that worries over France's decline in population began not in our time (because of immigration), but more than a century ago (because of military weakness). In the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, France and Germany had about the same population of men between the ages of 20 and 34. By the eve of World War I, Germany had 7.7 million fighting-age men, France just 4.5 million. This book is a feast of tidbits about French history. A Paris mob in the 1848 revolution was led by a man who earned his living as a painters' model of Jesus. (A soldier shot him dead.) During the siege of Paris at the end of the Franco-Prussian War, zoo animals were slaughtered to stock the city's restaurants. Quite often, though, Fenby's mind comes to rest not on what is most representative but on what is most ghoulish or gross. Of the aged and ailing Louis XVIII, we learn that "when he attended Mass at Notre-Dame, the bandages came off his leg and liquid oozed onto the floor." Napoleon III wet his bed in 1856. In the 1880s the Prince of Wales and Sigmund Freud attended a performance by "Jules Pujol, the master of wind, who could play the 'Marseillaise' on an ocarina through a rubber tube inserted into his anus." The writing is consistently "lively" in this way, the presentation jazzed up with sidebars and timelines, including a sensationalistic account of the November 2015 terrorist attacks that clumsily opens the book. Fenby's story is 200 years wide and half an inch deep. He shoehorns events into the revolutionary tradition, noting that Mitterrand's Socialists pandered to interest groups "as if afraid that the spirit of the revolution of 1789 might sweep them to the tumbrel." (As if pandering to interest groups were not what politicians do at all times and places.) The appeal of today's National Front, he writes, "sprang not from logic, rather from the emotions of those who felt betrayed by the political establishment and sought a new champion whom they could imagine understood their everyday concerns." (Where is the illogic in voting against those one feels betrayed by?) When Fenby tries to explain and not merely describe, his book falls like a soufflé. The post-1789 paradox Fenby describes does exist. Revolutions are always pregnant with reaction. A new order of liberty and equality requires a source of authority and will, and these will usually be drawn from tried-and-true - that is, prerevolutionary - sources. Drunk though he may once have been on egalitarian oratory, Hollande is as dependent on the mandarins of the École Nationale d'Administration as the Bourbons were on their Scottish and Swiss economic advisers. Houellebecq's France is as plutocratic as Balzac's. The country remains submissive before spiritual authority, even under laïcité, the century-old constitutional secularism that the French mistake for a system of freedom of religion. Having done its work in driving the Roman Catholic Church out of politics, laïcité has lately been invoked as a tidy way to dispose of Islam. One result, last summer, was a series of government attempts to ban the burkini, an ostentatiously modest Muslim swimsuit, which the prime minister declared a threat "against which the republic must be defended." It is not the first time the French have come to feel that the blessings of liberty are too important to be entrusted to its citizenry. As the historian of the revolution Alphonse Aulard put it in 1885 : "What a beautiful republic we had under the empire!" ? After Robespierre's guillotine, even some revolutionaries longed for authoritarianism. Christopher Caldwell is a senior editor at The Weekly Standard and the author of "Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam and the West"


Library Journal Review

Both within its borders and to the rest of the world, France has long preserved a narrative of its own exceptionality. In addition to significant technological and cultural achievements and innovations, the country has undergone momentous social and political upheaval during the past 200 years. Monarchy, revolution, empire, and capitalism are as much a part of its history as politician Maximilien Robespierre, writer Victor Hugo, colonialism, and the conservative political party the National Front. According to Fenby (The General: Charles de Gaulle and the France He Saved), France is unable to reconcile many of its own contradictions and conflicts: reform vs. order, imperialism vs. republicanism, exceptional men vs. nameless functionaries, radicalism vs. conservatism. All have contributed to the making and unmaking of France as a whole. VERDICT Relying on, although not always citing, an array of primary and secondary sources, Fenby's accessible prose utilizes non sequitur and a light touch to good effect. He successfully conveys to general readers two centuries of intricate political and economic facts and figures in a well-recommended, thoroughly engrossing narrative.-Linda Frederiksen, Washington State Univ. Lib., Vancouver © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Prologue: A Republic at Warp. ix
Introduction: The Lasting Legacy of the Revolutionp. 1
Part 1 Restoration and Revolution 1815-1848
1 Restorationp. 27
2 Reaction and Revolutionp. 47
3 Citizen Kingp. 59
4 Sharpening the Knifep. 81
Part 2 Republicanism and Empire 1848-1870
5 The Impossible Dreamp. 103
6 From Prince President, to Emperorp. 115
7 The Opportunistic Empirep. 126
8 Reform and Disasterp. 147
Part 3 The Third Republic 1870-1940
9 The Bloody Weekp. 163
10 A Good Little Republicp. 174
11 The Men of the Middlep. 205
12 From the Affair to Warp. 219
13 The Troubled Peacep. 247
14 Tout Va Très Bien, Madame la Marquisep. 266
Part 4 Vichy, De Gaulle and the Unloved Republic 1940-1958
15 Two Francesp. 281
16 Liberationp. 308
17 Seeking a New Coursep. 315
18 The Unloved Republicp. 325
19 The End of a Republicp. 343
Part 5 The Fifth Republic 1958-2015
20 New Regime, New Timesp. 359
21 Decline and Fallp. 383
22 The Banker, the Prince and the Florentinep. 403
23 Bulldozer, Bling and Normalp. 422
24 The Weight of Historyp. 461
Notesp. 485
Bibliographyp. 502
Acknowledgementsp. 516
Indexp. 518

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