The Great Nation: France from Louis XV to Napoleon 1715-99

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Columbia University Press, 2002 - History - 650 pages
2 Reviews

The French Revolution has never seemed as revolutionary as in Colin Jones's magnificent new history of the period from the death of Louis XIV, the "Sun King," in 1715 to the advent of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1799. During the middle decades of the eighteenth century France was positioned at the apex of the world's most powerful states, seemingly invulnerable to invasion, with an unparalleled intellectual and artistic life, and the wealth and population to dominate the world. By century's end, the Bourbon monarchs who had presided over this robust age were killed or in exile, and in their place reigned first Revolution, and then Napoleon.

Jones breaks new ground, revealing that the so-called "Old Regime," which held power up to 1789, was neither as old nor as doomed as historians have often claimed. In fact, the whole of Europe acknowledged the dynamism, social energy, and cultural prestige of France, whose Bourbon rulers continued to be restlessly experimental and militarily ferocious, even helping the fledgling American revolutionaries destroy arch-rival England's American empire in the last decade of its rule. The implosive events of 1789 become all the more remarkable in light of Jones's brilliant exposition of the vitality of the Bourbon reign, and of the complex of social forces, dynamic personalities, and unpredictable moments of chance that brought down a colossus.

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User Review  - Widsith - LibraryThing

The Abbé Siéyès, when asked what exactly he had done during the Terror, famously replied, J'ai vécu (‘I survived’). Part of me wants to say something similar about getting through this book, which ... Read full review

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User Review  - Shrike58 - LibraryThing

Jones is at his best when tracing the forces that hollowed out the French Bourbon state; the Enlightenment, the economic pressures impacting French society, the growth of social consciousness, and the ... Read full review

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About the author (2002)

Colin Jones is professor of history at the University of Warwick. His books include The Longman Companion to the French Revolution, The Cambridge Illustrated History of France, The Medical World of Early Modern France (with Laurence Brockliss) and Madame de Pompadour: Images of a Mistress. He lives in the UK.

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