The best books on the history of France

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.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of France Since 1945

Jeremy Black Why did I love 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.

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…


Book cover of Paris: The Biography of a City

Jeremy Black Why did I love 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.

By Colin Jones,

Why should I read it?

3 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…


Book cover of The Oxford History of the French Revolution

Jeremy Black Why did I love 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.

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…


Book cover of The Merovingian Kingdoms 450 - 751

Jeremy Black Why did I love 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.

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.


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

Jeremy Black Why did I love 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.

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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Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle

By Jennifer Ivy Walker,

Book cover of Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle

Jennifer Ivy Walker Author Of Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author French teacher Avid reader Lover of medieval romance European traveler

Jennifer's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

A medieval romance between a flame haired, fire hearted French princess descended from Viking Valkyrie and the chivalrous knight who suffers an impossible love for her-- the daughter of the king he is sworn to protect.

A Yuletide Joust will determine who wins Princess Gabrielle's royal hand in marriage and her valuable dowry, the Breton kingdom of Finistère. Without a title of nobility, the man she loves--Sir Bastien de Landuc-- is ineligible to compete in the tournament, and she will be forced to marry a man she loathes.

Will Yuletide wishes make impossible dreams come true? Can the valiant knight win the coveted hand of his Viking Valkyrie?

Winter Solstice in the Crystal Castle

By Jennifer Ivy Walker,

What is this book about?

Gabrielle is a flame haired, fire hearted French princess who dreams of becoming a Valkyrie warrior queen like her Viking ancestors from Normandy. Sent to Paris to learn the proper etiquette for a future French queen, she is called home to le Château de Beaufort for a forced marriage to a man she loathes when her father the king's precarious health takes a sudden turn for the worse. Chivalrous, solitary knight Sir Bastien de Landuc suffers an impossible love for Gabrielle, the unattainable princess he can never have. Without a title of nobility, he is ineligible to compete in the…


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