A New Global His­tory

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Pa­trick Boucheron (Ed­i­tor), Other Press (APRIL) Soft­cover $38.99 (992pp), 978-1-59051-941-7 HIS­TORY

Un­de­ni­ably, Amer­ica had a ban­ner run in the twen­ti­eth cen­tury. No coun­try came any­where close to achiev­ing such power and pros­per­ity for those one hun­dred years. You killed it, US of A! But should we ven­ture back to the cen­turies di­rectly pre­ced­ing the last, one coun­try tow­ers above the oth­ers in terms of cul­ture, science, po­lit­i­cal thought, in­flu­ence, and wealth: France. Yes, France, for even as the 1789 Rev­o­lu­tion dom­i­nated Euro­pean events for decades, Paris in the eigh­teenth and nine­teenth cen­turies was bustling with most of the world’s lead­ing as­tronomers, physi­cists, bi­ol­o­gists, and chemists.

France in the World: A New Global His­tory, a col­lec­tion of one hun­dred-plus short es­says, pro­vides a most invit­ing en­tree to the breadth of French his­tory, from 34,000 BCE to 2015, all writ­ten by ac­claimed his­to­ri­ans, both new and es­tab­lished. Orig­i­nally pub­lished in France as His­to­rie mon­di­ale de la France in 2017 and hailed as the “the lit­er­ary phe­nom­e­non of the year,” the project was con­ceived in the harsh light of Brexit, Trump’s pres­i­dency, and ris­ing na­tion­al­ism. Ed­i­to­ri­ally, Pa­trick Boucheron and his col­leagues sought to ad­dress what it means to be a na­tion in a glob­al­ized world, as well as a ques­tion posed by Ni­co­las Sarkozy’s for­mer prime min­is­ter Fran­cois Fil­lon: “With our home­land des­per­ately thirst­ing for mean­ing, with the threat of in­ter­nal di­vi­sion loom­ing, shouldn’t our schools im­part the story of the na­tion?”

Ap­proach­able and en­ter­tain­ing, yet aca­dem­i­cally driven, France in the World is writ­ten by his­to­ri­ans in­tent on help­ing read­ers make use of France’s sin­gu­lar past.

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