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A Brief History of France

3.46  ·  Rating details ·  315 ratings  ·  46 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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3.46  · 
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 ·  315 ratings  ·  46 reviews

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Jason Koivu
Sep 19, 2015 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
Jan 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
A delightful, very cute brief overview of the history of one of the most beautiful, enchanting and cultured Countries on Earth, a Country that played such a pivotal role in the development of the European Civilization: France.
This little book (just a little over 300 pages) manages brilliantly to condense much interesting and relevant information about the main historical developments and character of this fascinating country; the overall narrative tends to be weighted towards early modern, mode
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
TThis year I am reading a few novels set around or on the French Revolution, after posting my thoughts on the first one, Hugo’s Les Misérables, I realised how little I knew about this and wanted to correct it.

I selected this book to have a better understanding of what led up to the revolution and what happened afterwards. I did not have high hopes to understand most of it, I was wrong. Jenkins writes in an easy style. In just over 300 pages he surveys French history, after mentioning Cro Magnon
Aaron Hollander
Apr 13, 2013 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
Susan Liston
Apr 02, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, read-2018
Read this mainly to get my French kings straight. It served its purpose.
Oct 03, 2012 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
Peter Moy
Jun 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
France Is An Exceptional Country And This Book Explains Why.

I have recently spent a delightful month in France. What is it about this country that stands it in contrast to the hard, winner takes all capitalism of the Anglosphere?(Britain and the US.) Reading this book certainly provides some of the answers to that question and in a way that is a very enjoyable read as well. It is one of the excellent “Brief History” series of book of which contains approximately 70 titles. It packs a lot of info

Jun 11, 2013 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
Jun 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Read it as part of travel reading before going to France. It does a decent job of giving you an idea of major arches in French history. I liked how he puts the cultural paradigms in perspective with the contemporary political and social changes. French history in itself is quiet interesting. It was a revelation to learn about the amount of churn it has undergone in last 225 odd years!

The book is quiet heavy on the post revolution part. The continuous procession of people in and out of power does
Khoa Dang
Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
A detailed narrative about the events and forces that constantly shaped and reshaped over the course of centuries what becomes modern-day France. Cutting through all the clichés about Frenchness, French romance and French work ethic, we will explore through this book a land rich in cultural and historical heritages. From the cro-magnon beginning through the Medieval Age, the Enlightenment, the Revolution, the Napoleonic hegemony in Europe,the Great Wars to finally the modern French Fifth Republi ...more
Jan 13, 2018 rated it liked it
This provided a breadth but not depth of pre-WW2 history. More then 1/3 of the book is after 1945. Feel like this is a shame because in early chapters, I would have enjoyed a longer look at the monarchy, the revolutions and some more medieval France.
While I learned some new things about France, which was my goal in reading this book, it is not the most enjoyable of the "brief history" books I've read.
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
good primer
Paul Manytravels
A good but concise history of France which I read as a pre-travel book to help me better appreciate what I would experience when I visited France.
Mar 11, 2018 rated it liked it
2.5. It served its purpose. Once de Gaulle came into powder the book began to drag, but until then it was alright.
Brad Mundy
As he gets into the 1900s he becomes somewhat opinionated. It takes away from the history. The portion prior to the 1900s is quite good.
Helen McGowan
Mar 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I picked this book up in France whilst on holiday, because I wanted a short reasonably detailed potted history of France, and that is exactly what I got. I would have liked more detail about the early modern period and less about the modern period, but I found it all interesting. I would reccomend it.
Adam Ford
Sep 06, 2014 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
Jack Hrkach
Mar 04, 2015 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
Nov 12, 2012 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
Robert Miller
Feb 16, 2014 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
Jan 31, 2016 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
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
I absolutely love French history, so when I saw this book I just had to grab it. While the beginning was very brief (Jenkins didn't spend too long on earlier periods), everything started to get a lot more comprehensive by the ~tenth chapter. I mean, there were at least five chapters spent on the time from WWI to today, while France's medieval history only got a chapter or so.

Still, I found this book to be very informative, if that's what you're looking for.

The writing was a little confusing som
Phillipa Fleur
Nov 04, 2014 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
Mar 26, 2014 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
Ted Wolf
Jan 18, 2015 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.
Jan 15, 2015 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
Muli Ben-Yehuda
Dec 30, 2016 rated it liked it
This was a tough slog, but I was determined to finish. For some reason, I've developed a fascination with France in recent years, and this book helped fill in the gaps in my knowledge of France's history and politics. But -- it reminded me of the worst parts of learning history, full of dates and people who flit across the page never to appear again. I prefer the narrative style of history-telling, where the focus is on representative events and memorable anecdotes. Not quite scholarly of me, I ...more
Jan 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015, history, 2017
I've listened the audiobook version of this twice now. It's a good overview and covers everything from pre-history up to Nicolas Sarkozy. The book spends a disproportionate amount of time covering the post-wars years with several chapters on the politics and economics of modern France. For me, these chapters were dull compared to the rest of the book. The author also covers some of the elements of French culture, the French struggle against globalization, and French exceptionalism and universali ...more
Jan 29, 2013 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
Jan 12, 2013 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
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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