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A Brief History of France

3.48  ·  Rating Details  ·  161 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
A Brief History of France tells the story of the formation of this grand nation through its people, great events, and culture. When we think of France we often evoke images of fine food and wine, the elegant boulevards of Paris, and the chic beaches of St. Tropez, but the largest country in Europe has much more to offer than tourist attractions.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published June 28th 2011 by Running Press (first published May 1st 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 372)
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Jason Koivu
Nov 12, 2015 Jason Koivu rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I'm too damn familiar with British history, I told myself recently. Time to branch out!...My branch didn't stretch too far.

The histories of France and England are deeply entwined (which always seemed odd to me considering how very different are their people, language, food, etc), so reading about France's history wasn't exactly like taking a trip to another galaxy. Since declaring nationhood, their almost constant warring would always insure some old familiar atrocity to ground my sense of time
Aaron Hollander
Apr 22, 2013 Aaron Hollander rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: european-travels
Well written and gives a great survey of the history of France. Weighted towards the French Revolution and 19th and 20th centuries, it certainly provides for a firm grounding to whomever wishes to acquaint themselves with French history, and provides for a good point-of-departure, to investigate any topic in more depth. Largest complaint is the emphasis on economics and politics, and not enough discussion of cultural contributions in the arts, literature, cinema, music, which is covered very sup ...more
Sep 01, 2013 Robert rated it really liked it
Jenkins does an admirable job compressing two millennia of French history into one volume. This is definitely a "great man" approach to history—the narrative is almost entirely focused on political history and political leaders. Jenkins has a confident touch, and one gets a clear sense of which realities changed and which persisted as one moves from era to era.

The pace of the narrative slows, however, as one approaches the present. Major themes of the Fifth Republic are highlighted, particularl
Adam Ford
Sep 06, 2014 Adam Ford rated it liked it
In preparation for my trip to Paris with my daughter I looked pretty far and wide for a good shorter history of France to bring me up to speed. I settled on this one and it wasn't bad. But it reminded me why I prefer authoritative biographies or focused period pieces better than survey treatments--I end up being driven crazy by the lack of detail and analysis.

If you are looking for a brief summary of who did what in French history than this is a good book.

There are a couple of exceptions: I di
Robert Miller
Feb 16, 2014 Robert Miller rated it really liked it
This was my first reading about French History other than ever-so-briefly glancing over the topic in school and hearing about it frequently from my mother, a Parisian, who my dad met there while stationed in Paris during World War II. The country, and particularly the people, have been a source of intrigue for years to me. This said, my take on the book is that it provides a short, but inclusive, rendering of the country's history from tribal times to approximately 2011. The focus throughout is ...more
Feb 07, 2016 Rob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't pretend to be an expert but this is a book that would work best for the completely uninitiated. That de Gaulle is afforded as much house room as the entire Middle Ages sums up the problem - the focus is far too much on the relatively familiar modern period (including the World Wars) when more on how France came into being as a recognisable political and cultural entity would have been welcome.

Still, it's skilfully and succinctly written and provides a good treatment of certain things in
Jack Hrkach
Mar 28, 2015 Jack Hrkach rated it really liked it
Ahead of almost three weeks in France I have been reading up on the subject - first a book on France for the History Traveler, which did very little io help THIS traveler, second a History of France written just after the Great War, which was just under 300 pages crammed with info, but written in an old fashioned(it would be, wouldn't it) and pedantic way.

Cecil Jenkins's book is the best of the three, well written and researched, as I've found all the books in the "Brief History" series that I'v
Phillipa Fleur
Nov 04, 2014 Phillipa Fleur rated it really liked it
This book is a great introduction to the entire history of France, from the time of the Gauls to the time of De Gaulle and further.
Not only does it present information in an easy-to-read, easy-to-follow fashion but, amazingly, also manages to retain the names, dates and other specific information making it easy to research further. Beyond this, the book also contains a multitude of references to source and related material woven throughout the summary-style historical narratives, also facilitat
Jan 15, 2015 MBJ rated it it was amazing
In addition to having the advantage of actually being concise, this book is a wonderful overview of French history, both for the novice or for the student of French history. It provides just at the right level of detail for either audience. For the astute reader, there is also quite a bit of well-synthesized analysis about French history and culture. The book is well written and easy to read. I especially liked how the chapters on more recent history were written. The author puts modern politics ...more
Oct 03, 2012 Lydia rated it it was amazing
From Les Eyzies-de-Tayac’s National Museum of Prehistory, early Gaul leader Vercingétorix, and Clovis’ creation of the Frankish Kingdom; to Jacques Chirac’s and Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidency and the threat of the ‘Americanization’ of French culture, Cecil Jenkins’ sumup of France: People, History and Culture covers quite a bit in only 309 pages.

Cecil pulls from several resources to give us a balanced view of French history and culture. Without too many romantic leanings or criticisms, he lays out
Nov 12, 2012 Scott rated it liked it
While visiting Paris last week, I realized that I needed to read a little more French history. Previously I've read a book on the Sun King and one of the Revolution, but nothing else. My knowledge of French history generally coming in overall treatments of world, church, or British history. Seeing this volume in the Cluny Museum, I bought it and began reading and finished it the next day while on the flight home.

It is a very quick summary of French history, but doesn't get bogged down in a lot o
Ronan Mcdonnell
Sep 04, 2015 Ronan Mcdonnell rated it it was amazing
A good partner to the recent A Short History of England by Simon Jenkins. Another major European power, another Jenkins. A fast read, hurtling through a tempestuous history with colourful asides, and cultural references. Great fun, and illuminating.
May 12, 2015 Andrea rated it really liked it
Shelves: france
This book was exactly what the title suggests, a brief history of France. It managed to be brief, but still give enough information that I finished feeling like I learned a lot about a country that I have visited and loved for many years. I liked the sweeping view of France's mostly tragic history. It helped give me a better perspective of the nation as a whole.
Jonathon Laudinsky
Sep 20, 2014 Jonathon Laudinsky rated it liked it
A good introductory book on the long and sweeping history of France. I was much more familiar with
the Frankish Empire, Medieval France and the First Republic, which I have long studied. I was mostly interested in the Second Republic and Napoleon III.
John Allgood
Jul 09, 2015 John Allgood rated it liked it
This brief history is strong on the last century but too thin on the earlier periods. I wanted more on the earlier history.
May 07, 2014 Jason rated it really liked it
It does about as good of a job as a book this size can about France. Learned a lot of things I did not know. It doesn't have the best transitions from time period to time period and I would have liked a little more in depth chapters around the revolutions and less so with post de Gaulle. One I am not interested in more "recent" history, so selfish reasons, but secondly it has not been that long in the grand scheme of things so it is hard to really talk about history that happened just a generati ...more
Jan 29, 2013 Sue rated it it was ok
I chose this book after seeing the movie, Les Miserables, I wanted to learn more about the history of France and put Victor Hugo's story into context. The book title promised a brief history but this book had more detail that I wanted to wade through. It read like a dry history text, packed full of facts and statistics. The main thing I got out of it is that France has a long history of internal conflicts, civil wars and revolutions. No one person or one party stays in power for long. I finally ...more
Mar 13, 2014 Sharla rated it it was ok
I bought this book because, after spending two weeks in France last year, I realized I didn't know much about the country's history and I wanted to know more. Do I feel any further ahead in that regard after reading this book? Not really.
Ted Wolf
Feb 24, 2016 Ted Wolf rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Who might like this book?

If you want to or need to know about France of today and why it is politically, economically and socially the way it is, this book will probably serve as a good primer.

If you want to study up before your vacation in France, you might do better to look for a different history book than this.

There is considerably more Chirac than Charlemagne here and while you race through prehistory through Roman times in one chapter about half the text deals with WWII to the present.
Apr 23, 2015 Elysse rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
I really wish this book had pictures/maps because that is just very helpful in history books in my opinion. I just generally wasn't a fan of the author's tone, for whatever reason? And I felt like there were not enough details to help me understand. The second half of the book I had no idea what was going on really because he kept mentioning people. political parties and processes, and then not explaining them very well so I was just confused a lot.
Jan 12, 2013 Caitlin rated it it was ok
Anyone attempting to cover the entire history of France from the Romans to the present is going to have to gloss over a lot but this was too much for me. I got more detailed information from the Wikipedia page for the history of France and that's saying something! And while I know this a more general knowledge book about France, I'd prefer much less of the author's opinion. A nit picky thing but it still annoyed me. :P
Tom Zunder
Nov 05, 2011 Tom Zunder rated it it was amazing
Easily accessible, readable, touches lightly on all areas. Like all histories there is more as time goes by. Quite reflective on the various claims to French uniqueness. I found it a good starter, and it explained the violent switching between republicanism and monarchism, which I had never fully understoof before.. and how it relates to the collaborationist Vichy regime in WW2.

Nov 08, 2013 Ryan rated it really liked it
glorified timeline of major events in french history. a bit ambitious considering he tries to go from cro-magnon to 2011 in ~300 pages. napoleon doesn't even get a whole chapter.

but it was exactly what i was looking for, ignorant as i was of anything french besides the tower and la chatte.

James Violand
Nov 06, 2014 James Violand rated it liked it
Shelves: own
A very basic, quick read of France. Too elemental. It was as though the author had a looming deadline and barely made it by pulling all-nighters. It reads like it. I suppose it fills the gap in books meant to be read by first-timers on a flight to France for vacation.
Sep 18, 2011 Johanne rated it liked it
A good quick skip through for someone who knows little but i would perhaps have given less weight to the last 50 years of french history
Richard G
Apr 21, 2013 Richard G added it
Shelves: history
An excellent brief history of France like the title says.
Dec 27, 2012 Kristen rated it did not like it
Way WAY too brief and felt very rushed.
Aimee marked it as to-read
May 27, 2016
Merinika Ryder
Merinika Ryder marked it as to-read
May 22, 2016
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I was educated at Trinity College Dublin, plus postgraduate work at the Ecole Normale Superieure de Paris. I have taught at university level in Paris, then at Exeter and Sussex, with year as visiting prof at UBC Vancouver.
My literary interests are in French and German as well as in English, but I am also interested in philosophy, history and politics.
A former soccer player, I enjoy various sport
More about Cecil Jenkins...

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