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Louis XI: The Universal Spider

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  77 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
The enthralling and little-known story of the ugly, fat, paranoid, and ruthless king known as "the universal spider" for his incessant machinations. In the year Louis XI was born, just after the 100 Years' War, England still ruled much of France. Unifying the land became his idée fixe, and through Louis' wiliness, network of spies, and willingness to forge alliances when n ...more
Paperback, 640 pages
Published October 28th 2001 by Phoenix Press (first published January 1st 1971)
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First let me point out that the GR blurb for this book is incorrect. Louis XI was born during the Hundred Years' War with France. He was born in 1423 which was prior to the great battle of Verneuil in 1424 and the siege of Orléans years later (as a child he met Joan of Arc). In fact the war lasted until 1453 when he was an adult. However, his reasonably long reign started in 1461 after the end of the war.

Paul Murray Kendall states in the preface that he had laboured for thirteen years over this
Lawrence Manzo
May 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of the best history books I've read. 15th Century France & England strike you as "Medieval" with guys running around in armour and Chivalry, etc., but they had a real Renaissance mindset. The challenge of dealing with the unconquered Edward IV in England and Charles the Bold of Burgundy are a fascinating story. Louis XI wins out in the end, and re-creates the map of Europe! What a great story, and no one knows it. The French think of him as a Gothic Dracula-type figure who tortured his v ...more
Dec 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book intruded upon by the holidays, LOUIS XI delivers--or more to the point, Kendall delivers, a fascinating read. A man before his time, who brought a taste of the modern world to the governing of France in the 15th century, Louis XI was a one-of-a-kind ruler, coming to the throne in 1461, well before the concentrated push to early modern Europe rose in the mid-16th century. A man of common interests but exceptional intelligence, Louis recognized the place that trade and industry could h ...more
Jun 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current, background
I really liked this. Louis XI isn't well known at all nowadays but he was such a great leader for France and all of Europe at a time when everything was changing: culture, politics, security and the means for furthering and maintaining these things as well. He saw far ahead what was needed and took slow careful steps in those directions in a world of complete upheaval without worrying about being 'popular' or for most of his life, even well dressed. Not only would he wear the coarsest of common ...more
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding 13 year work filled with intricate and researched detail about this King who truly was an aberration for his time, role, and preferences. Called the Universal Spider for his concocting ability to balance the power scales and turn webs of change and transference from both old systems of feudalism and medieval cognitive mindsets. France becomes different. A nation amongst other changes.

Excellent historical work which reads well and deserves many hours to absorb all the nuance of Europ
Susan Abernethy
Feb 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Link to a full review of this book:

Currently reading this out-of-print book. Paul Murray Kendall took 13 years to write this book and it shows. He really has the knack for making Louis' personality shine through. It has a lot of great detail but in a good way and Kendall writes with a wry sense of humor. The description of the battle of Montlheury is riveting! I highly recommend this book. I didn't know anything about Louis other than he was called the Uni
Mark Desrosiers
Oct 26, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
Kendall's knack for restoring the reputations of blackened monarchs (he's also written a bio of Richard III) is very impressive here. The book presumes some advanced knowledge of the post Hundred Years' War era (which I didn't have), but Kendall's rubbery, witty prose style carried me along anyway. In the end, he portrays the Universal Spider as a savvy quick-moving political operator rather than a vicious superstitious tyrant (the standard view). Not so much a product of his times, but a brutal ...more
Tim Robinson
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
The secrets of success in statecraft are persistence, pragmatism and not to be too squeamish. Louis XI of France had all these qualities. But it also helps to be a great warrior, and this Louis was not.

Louis inherited a France ruined by war, surrounded by enemies and organized as a loose federation of powerful nobles. From this he built a larger, richer and more centralized state. And he did it without winning any notable battles.

He got off to a bad start and provoked a baronial revolt that he w
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I found this to be the best of Kendall's books. Partly because the story of Louis XI is like a historical version of Clavell's _Shogun_ with so many near misses in being elevated to power and then the "sword of Damocles" that follows him throughout all of his various adventures. If the 100 years war and dealing with England vs. France is interesting to you, this will be a really fascinating "bridge period" to the Reformation and 30 Years War and how bigger European national politics comes to rep ...more
Gerry Germond
Before there was Bismarck, before there was Metternich, before there was Richelieu, there was Louis XI of France, “the universal spider.” Much like those other guys, he wove a diplomatic web of alliances, funding (“bribery” is the more accurate term), and fast-talking to isolate his foes, mainly the powerful Duke of Burgundy and gather in the spoils when they fell (the Duke in war with the Swiss). He became king when France was just starting its recovery from the disastrous Hundred Years War wit ...more
King Louis XI of France
born 3 July 1423 –
died 30 August 1483
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Paul Murray Kendall was an American academic and historian. A 1928 graduate from Frankford High School, Kendall studied at the University of Virginia, receiving a bachelor's degree in 1932, and master's in 1933. In 1937, while studying for a Ph.D, he became an instructor in English at the Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. He obtained a Ph.D. from the University of Virginia in 1939, and continued as ...more
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