Home History books Thirteen new French history books [reading list]

Thirteen new French history books [reading list]

Thirteen new French history books [reading list]

Bastille Day is a French national holiday, marking the storming of the Bastille, a military fortress and prison, on July 14, 1789, in an uprising that helped usher in the French Revolution.

As the National Day anniversary approaches, we’re sharing some of France’s latest history titles, for you to explore, share and enjoy. We’ve also granted free access to selected chapters, for a limited time, for you to dive into.

1. The death of the French Atlantic: trade, war and slavery in the time of the revolution by Alan Forrest

War, revolution and the fight against slavery were the three main forces that led to the dramatic decline of France’s Atlantic Empire with the loss of its wealthiest Caribbean colony, Santo Domingo. Alan Forrest paints a rich portrait of the French communities of the Atlantic in this tumultuous period and the precarious heritage of the French slave trade.

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2. How the French learned to vote: a history of electoral practice in France by Malcolm Crook

This is a comprehensive history of voting in France, which offers an original insight into all aspects of electoral activity that affects most adults around the world today.

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3. Sex in a city of the old regime: young workers and intimacy in France, 1660-1789 by Julie Hardwick

Sex in an old regime town is a major reframing of the long history of youth intimacy. It shows how long-term problems such as pregnancies outside marriage were treated very differently in France under the Ancien Régime than in more recent centuries. Abortion, infanticide, broken hearts and conflict with parents and neighbors were the main challenges in the lives of young people then and today, but the efforts of young couples to cope with these challenges were supported in a pragmatic, often sympathetic manner, by their communities and institutions such as local courts, clergy, legal officials and social welfare officials.

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4. The Global Refuge: the Huguenots in the Age of Empire by Owen Stanwood

The Global Refuge is the first global history of the Huguenots, Protestant refugees from France dispersed across the world in the 17th and 18th centuries. Inspired by the visions of Eden, these religious migrants were forced to navigate a world of empires, forming colonies in North America, the Caribbean and even South Africa and the Indian Ocean.

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The making of a terrorist5. The Making of a Terrorist: Alexandre Rousselin and the French Revolution by Jeff Horn

This is the story of how an educated young man decided the French Revolution was worth using state-sponsored violence, chose to become a terrorist to protect the republic, and spent the five decades following to defend his actions.

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6. The voices of Nîmes: women, sex and marriage in the Languedoc Reform by Suzannah Lipscomb

Most women who have never lived have left no trace of their existence in the records of history. In this book, Suzannah Lipscomb recovers the lives and aspirations of ordinary French women of the 16th and 17th centuries, using rich sources to show what they thought about their lives, their men, their friendships, their faith and of their sex.

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Today sardines are not for sale7. Today, sardines are not for sale: a street demonstration in occupied Paris by Paula Schwartz

It is the story of a food shortage demonstration organized by the French underground Communist Party which took place in a Parisian market place on May 31, 1942. The incident, known as the “demonstration of women on the rue de Buci ”, has become a famous cause. In this microhistory of the event, Schwartz examines the many moving parts of an underground operation; the life and death of demonstrators, women and men; and the ways in which the incident was remembered, commemorated or forgotten.

8. The Napoleonic Wars: A Global History by Alexandre Mikaberidze

Austerlitz, Wagram, Borodino, Trafalgar, Leipzig, Waterloo: these are the places most associated with the Napoleonic wars. But how did this almost continuous period of war affect the world beyond Europe? The immensity of the battles waged by France against England, Prussia, Austria and Russia, and the immediate consequences of the tremors that spread from France, eclipse the profound repercussions of the wars. Napoleonic in the world. In this far-reaching work, Alexander Mikaberidze argues that the Napoleonic wars can only be fully understood with an international context in mind.

The fall of Robespierre9. The fall of Robespierre: 24 hours in revolutionary Paris by Colin Jones

The day of 9 Thermidor (July 27, 1794) is universally recognized as a major turning point in the history of the French Revolution. Maximilien Robespierre, the most prominent member of the Committee of Public Safety, contemplated destroying one of the most dangerous plots the Revolution had faced.

ten. Piracy and publishing: the book trade in the Age of Enlightenment by Robert Darnton

At the end of the 18th century, a group of publishers of what historian Robert Darnton calls the “fertile crescent” – countries along the French border, stretching from Holland to Switzerland – pirated the works by prominent (and often banned) French writers and distributed in France, where the laws governing piracy were changing and where any notion of “copyright” was in its infancy. Piracy and publication reveals how and why piracy brought the Enlightenment to the four corners of France, fueling ideas that would explode into revolution.

The Jacquerie of 135811. The Jacquerie of 1358: a revolt of the French peasants by Justine Firnhaber-Baker

The Jacquerie of 1358 is one of the most famous and mysterious peasant revolts of the Middle Ages. This book, the first in-depth study of La Jacquerie in over a century, resolves long-standing controversies over whether the revolt was just an irrational explosion of peasant hatred or simply an extension of the Parisian revolt.

12. Libertines and the law: subversive authors and criminal justice in France at the beginning of the 17th century by Adam Horsley

Libertines and the law examines the legal and rhetorical tactics employed in the infamous trials of three subversive authors: Giulio Cesare Vanini, Jean Fontanier and Théophile de Viau. Their trials are contextualized with a detailed conceptual history of libertinism, as well as an exploration of literary censorship and the mechanisms of the criminal justice system in early France Bourbon.

Dead men telling stories13. Dead Men Telling Stories: Napoleonic War Veterans and the Military Memories Industry, 1808-1914 by Mathilde Greig

Dead men telling stories is an original account of the enduring cultural impact of the autobiographies of Napoleonic soldiers during the 19th century.

Featured image: “French Revolution”, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5)


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