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The French Century: An Illustrated History of Modern France [Hardcover]

Brian Moynahan
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

17 Sep 2007
Sixteen chapters cover the history of France from the end of the 19th century to the present day, encapsulating everything from political events and scientific discoveries to cultural achievements and sporting triumphs. The five presidents of France’s fifth republic–Charles de Gaulle, Georges Pompidou, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, François Mitterand, and Jacques Chirac–have led the country through tremendous change in all sectors, and their respective reigns are covered in detail. The Dreyfus Affair, the May 1968 student protests, the onset of a socialist government in 1981, and two world wars are but a few French landmarks that have changed the face of Europe and the world. French culture flourished in the 20th century. Colette, Proust, Emile Zola, and Jules Verne wrote classics in literature while Picasso, Rodin, the Dadaists, and the Surrealists redefined art. Haussmann’s urban plan and I. M. Pei’s pyramid set new standards in architecture. Sarah Bernhard and Josephine Baker revolutionized the performing arts while Camille Saint-Saëns, Claude Debussy, Pablo Casals, and Maurice Ravel set the era to music. The Tour de France, Lacoste tennis, and World Cup soccer energized the sports scene. Innovations in science came from Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie, and Henry Bequerel. This book includes two hundred and photographs of the main events and key personalities of the century.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Flammarion; English-languaged Ed edition (17 Sep 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 2080300156
  • ISBN-13: 978-2080300157
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 19.2 x 3.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 616,807 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Splendid Synthesis 17 Nov 2007
When I first picked up this volume, I wondered if it was a coffee-table book of the familiar sort: lots of nice pictures accompanied by a shallow hack-work text. My doubts were strengthened by the first page, where a photograph of Matisse is wrongly identified as Picasso.

Author Brian Moynahan has every right to be vexed by this carelessness on the part of his publisher, for mark well: my initial suspicion that "The French Century" might be a piece of meretricious commercialism was totally mistaken. It is actually an outstanding one-volume history of modern France, informative, wise, entertaining, well-written, and highly enjoyable. With great skill, Moynahan spins political, cultural, and social history into a single continuous thread. There are any number of fascinating details. e.g. France was the most militarized nation in Europe before 1914: 85% of men had received military training. Berets were not widely worn by Frenchmen (apart from the Basque minority) until the 1930s. The first striptease show was in Paris in 1893. Inter-war France (1919-1939) had forty governments in twenty years. The last public use of the guillotine was in 1939. Internal customs duties were not entirely abolished until 1948. One third of French homes still lacked running water in 1954.

I should not give the impression, however, that "The French Century" is merely a factual miscellany. It is a serious and well-judged survey of a nation from 1900 to 2007, with a effective prologue covering 1789-1899. The turbulent decade of 1936-46 justifiably takes up 130 of 450 pages. This book has increased my understanding of France as well as my knowledge of it and puts many an academic textbook in the shade.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid history of a splendid country 31 July 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent history of France in the 20th century, addressed to the non-specialist. It is beautifully illustrated throughout, but that does not mean it is a coffee table book. I greatly enjoyed reading it. The continuing influence of the 1789 revolution is to be found throughout the book. To understand France and the French you need to understand how the revolution empowered "the people" to stand up against the state. Recommended, unreservedly.
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