The best books on the history of France

Jeremy Black Author Of France: A Short History
By Jeremy Black

Who am I?

I am a historian with wide-ranging interests and publications, including, in European history, histories of Italy, Spain, Portugal, the Mediterranean, eighteenth-century Europe, Europe 1550-1800, Europe since 1945, and European warfare.


I wrote...

France: A Short History

By Jeremy Black,

Book cover of France: A Short History

What is my book about?

This is an accessible, up-to-date, illustrated history of France and the French that captures the absence of any inevitable pattern of development, and also the interactions of the geography of France with political circumstances. While taking an essentially chronological approach, there is an engagement with important continuities. A helpful guide to understanding France today.

The books I picked & why

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France Since 1945

By Robert Gildea,

Book cover of France Since 1945

Why this book?

The leading British interpreter of French history from 1940 produced this valuable guide to a period of major transformation in French history. Gildea has cogently argued that French politics reflects long-lasting divisions that play out in different mileux.

France Since 1945

By Robert Gildea,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked France Since 1945 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The last fifty years of French history have seen immense challenges for the French: constructing a new European order, building a modern economy, searching for a stable political system. It has also been a time of anxiety and doubt. The French have had to come to terms with the legacy of the German Occupation, the loss of Empire, the political and social implications of the influx of foreign immigrants, the rise of Islam, the destruction of rural life, and the threat
of Anglo-American culture to French language and civilization.
Robert Gildea's account examines the French political system and France's role…


Paris: The Biography of a City

By Colin Jones,

Book cover of Paris: The Biography of a City

Why this book?

No history of France can be complete without Paris, and this is the best account of that city, told adroitly by a specialist who conveys his enthusiasm well. Jones successfully presents Paris both as a unit and as a context for a range of identities and experiences.

Paris: The Biography of a City

By Colin Jones,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Paris as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the Roman Emperor Julian, who waxed rhapsodic about Parisian wine and figs, to Henry Miller, who relished its seductive bohemia, Paris has been a perennial source of fascination for 2,000 years. In this definitive and illuminating history, Colin Jones walks us through the city that was a plague-infested charnel house during the Middle Ages, the bloody epicenter of the French Revolution, the muse of nineteenth-century Impressionist painters, and much more. Jones's masterful narrative is enhanced by numerous photographs and feature boxes-on the Bastille or Josephine Baker, for instance-that complete a colorful and comprehensive portrait of a place that has…


The Oxford History of the French Revolution

By William Doyle,

Book cover of The Oxford History of the French Revolution

Why this book?

Bill Doyle is the leading British interpreter of the French Revolution and this is a subtle account of its causes and course. Very good on the need to look for specific political causes rather than any supposedly inevitable pattern of socio-economic conflict.

The Oxford History of the French Revolution

By William Doyle,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Oxford History of the French Revolution as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since its first publication to mark the bicentenary of the French Revolution in 1989, this Oxford History has established itself as the Revolution's most authoritative and comprehensive one-volume history in English, and has recently been translated into Chinese. Running from the accession of Louis XVI in 1774, it traces the history of France through revolution, terror, and counter-revolution to the final triumph of Napoleon in 1802. It also analyses the impact of
events in France upon the rest of Europe and the world beyond. The study shows how a movement which began with optimism and general enthusiasm soon became a…


The Merovingian Kingdoms 450 - 751

By Ian Wood,

Book cover of The Merovingian Kingdoms 450 - 751

Why this book?

The best point of departure for our understanding of medieval France, and a skillful build on often fragmentary sources. Wood shows how ‘barbarian’ invaders meshed with elements of Romanitas in order to produce continuities, notably in Christianity, as well as a very different society of rulership.

The Merovingian Kingdoms 450 - 751

By Ian Wood,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Merovingian Kingdoms 450 - 751 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A comprehensive survey which begins with the rise of the Franks, then examines the Merovingians.


The Valois: Kings of France 1328-1589

By Robert Knecht,

Book cover of The Valois: Kings of France 1328-1589

Why this book?

A scholarly account of the family that ruled France from 1328 to 1589. Knecht concentrates on the high politics, but his book is a valuable linkage of the Middle Ages and the early-modern age, taking readers from the Hundred Years’ War to the French Wars of Religion. France’s bloody history emerges clearly.

The Valois: Kings of France 1328-1589

By Robert Knecht,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Valois as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The house of Valois ruled France for 250 years, playing a crucial role in its establishment as a major European power. When Philip VI came to the throne, in 1328, France was a weak country, with much of its modern area under English rule. Victory in the Hundred Years' War, and the acquisition of Brittany and much of Burgundy, combined with a large population and taxable wealth, made the France of Francis I the only power in Europe capable of rivalling the empire of Charles V. Francis displayed his power by spectacular artistic patronage and aggressive foreign wars. Following the…


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