THE COURSE OF FRENCH
Pub Date: Jan. 4th, 1987
A brisk overview of French history by the author of Louis XIV and Twenty
Million Frenchmen (1970) and The Ancien RÃ‰gime (1973).
Documentary and narrative rather than theoretical and polemic, this quasi-
novelistic epic encompasses a thousand years, from the first Capetians in
987, and highlights successive revolts at home from 1789 to 1968, and political and military dramas
abroad ranging from The Hundred Years' War to the Pyrrhic victory of 1914 and the Vichy legacy.
Though Goubert has a tendency to worship the chart or graph and make an oracle of the archive, there
are nonethÃ‰less vivid sketches of legendary historical figures such as Joan of Arc, (Saint) Louis XI,
Louis XIV, and Charles de Gaulle, supported by a cast of characters including Lafayette, Talleyrand, and
the perpetual proletariat of French Revolution, the Paris student body. Goubert's popularizing survey
seems unlikely to prove the definitive one-volume work. Even given tolerance of his vision of history as
primarily economic and political, his suspicion of ""intellotrends,"" and the book's tone of a Sorbonne
primer, it's hard to swallow a history of France in which Balzac and Chopin are merely so much gossip
and background music to the July Monarchy, and Racine a poetic footnote to the Grand SiÃ¨cle.