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France: A Modern History from the Revolution…
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France: A Modern History from the Revolution to the War with Terror

by Jonathan Fenby

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The History of Modern France – Definitive & Majestic

Jonathan Fenby former editor of The Observer and the South China Morning Post has written one of the best and most current histories on France. The History of Modern France – from revolution to the present day is the most definitive, majestic and lucid history of modern France that one can read today, written with an eye to the detail presented to the general reader as well as historian. From this book we not only are able to view the past but also understand why the French today are prisoners of their current belief systems, something we British need to understand instead of standing scornfully observing them.

There are many books on the history of France in the English language and this could easily disappear in to that canon but what Fenby does differently is that yes he uses the revolution as his starting point. From ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ we see what Fenby calls the national narrative and gives France its ideological basis today. To us the French are always on strike but taking the view that the French have always had a tension in the republic between the rulers and the ruled, which gives often an angry and disenfranchised population.

In modern Europe we look at the politics of France and its Presidential election and the various swings between the left and right and how both secular views compete and win over every seven years. One thing that you do learn from this book is that one thing both the left and right on the political scale do believe historically is how to dominate every aspect of French life and centralise that and over the course that does not change other than the political leadership.

Fenby takes the view that France and its population is in the throes of a long civil war that started with the revolution and continues through to today, that this went on even through the occupation of the Second World War, European Union will be ongoing. Fenby’s account of the Nazi Occupation is one of the most fascinating that I have read in a long time and he sees it as a new chapter in the long civil war. The splits in the left and right, particular the fascists, is still an ongoing war today.

Fenby argues that throughout the book is that France today is still a prisoner today of its revolution and that is trapped under the weight of history. He produces some excellent observations on the use of Muslims to contain the power of the Catholic Church during the nineteenth century. One does not consider how much the French are in awe and prisoners of their own history until one is shown the evidence.

This is truly an excellent majestic history that should be on the shelves who want to learn more about France and understand her peoples. There is a great sweep of history that is dealt with honesty and an eye for detail and fact which makes this such a wonderful book to read and use. This is the most definitive and majestic histories of France that one can read today, truly excellent. ( )
  atticusfinch1048 | Jul 9, 2015 |
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