Seven Ages of Paris: Portrait of a City Paperback – 3 Oct 2003
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Acclaimed by the Guardian as 'an inspirational work of scholarship and love', this is a new history of one of the greatest cities in the world by one of the foremost historians of France.
About the Author
Alistair Horne is the author of many acclaimed books, including The Price of Glory, Small Earthquake in Chile and How Far From Austerlitz?, as well as the authorised two-volume biography of Harold Macmillan. In the June 2003 Birthday Honours List he received a knighthood for services to Franco-British relations.
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Top Customer Reviews
Overall, a truly excellent work. I thought I knew Paris but this has expanded my knowledge ten fold.
There are a couple of reasons why this didn't get a full five star rating. The first is that if you are not a French speaker (or reader) there are many occasions where there are quotations or phrases in French that are not given translations, so if you are totally stumped you'd need to go and look them up. The second reason is that the book waned somewhat towards the end; the book goes up to 1969, and there's a distinct feel that the author is rather weary of the era and all that it contains. There are a few rather barbed comments that reveal the feeling that for the author, the real glory of Paris is not in such things as the Tour Montparnasse and the Pompidou centre. Some periods of history are written about with great verve and enjoyment but it's clear that after the Belle Epoque, for the author at least, it was downhill all the way.
This isn't an easy access travel guide, and if that's what you were seeking, you would be frustrated by the leisurely style and lack of instant soundbites. But if you are looking to understand Paris, her history and that of her country and of wider Europe, this is the perfect book.
I do like the link with British history, which of course is unavoidable.
I would have liked to have read a more flowing story, but that may just be personal choice.
Otherwise a book I would recommend this book to put Paris history into context with European and French history.
is both informative and immensely readable.
The Seven Ages divide the history of Paris between 1180 and 1969 and they are continuous in the sense that one `age' runs into another, so it's not as if he has picked (say) 1918-1939 as the representative age for the 20th century. However, this does mean that even at 480 pages long you don't get a lot of detail - I make that about 60 pages per century. "Very good," you might think. "I don't want a lot of detail but the problem is that if you are like me your interest is going to vary across the 800 years covered. My interest in mediaeval history is not huge but even this level of detail left me bewildered as the different personalities blurred before my eyes. However, for the periods I was interested in - primarily the times of Napoleon and the Second World War & its aftermath - the level of detail was not enough and I felt I would have got almost as much by reading Wikipedia and then following up with a quick Google search.
My other disappointment was with the way the material was related to Paris itself. I wasn't expecting a tourist guide book but I was expecting something a bit more specific to the city. I had expected a history of Paris set in the context of France, not the other way round.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A tremendous introduction to Paris and French history. Sorry to have finished it. The epilogue alone is crammed full of fascinating facts.Published 5 months ago by Stephen Bywater
Well done!! At last a book that explains a lot about the French and Paris...Published 21 months ago by Tony Dean.
Alistair Horne is a preeminent British historian who has largely focused on French history, with particular emphasis on the Franco-German conflicts. Read morePublished on 7 Oct. 2013 by John P. Jones III
An interesting and engaging book about the history of the city Paris which the author has divided in seven distinct ages. Read morePublished on 17 Dec. 2011 by Brawny Withed