The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography, from the Revolution to the First World War

The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography, from the Revolution to the First World War

by Graham Robb

Paperback

$17.94 $18.95 Save 5% Current price is $17.94, Original price is $18.95. You Save 5%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Friday, June 21

Overview

"A witty, engaging narrative style…[Robb's] approach is particularly engrossing." —New York Times Book Review

A narrative of exploration—full of strange landscapes and even stranger inhabitants—that explains the enduring fascination of France. While Gustave Eiffel was changing the skyline of Paris, large parts of France were still terra incognita. Even in the age of railways and newspapers, France was a land of ancient tribal divisions, prehistoric communication networks, and pre-Christian beliefs. French itself was a minority language.

Graham Robb describes that unknown world in arresting narrative detail. He recounts the epic journeys of mapmakers, scientists, soldiers, administrators, and intrepid tourists, of itinerant workers, pilgrims, and herdsmen with their millions of migratory domestic animals. We learn how France was explored, charted, and colonized, and how the imperial influence of Paris was gradually extended throughout a kingdom of isolated towns and villages.

The Discovery of France explains how the modern nation came to be and how poorly understood that nation still is today. Above all, it shows how much of France—past and present—remains to be discovered.

A New York Times Notable Book, Publishers Weekly Best Book, Slate Best Book, and Booklist Editor's Choice.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393333640
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 10/06/2008
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 300,561
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

Best-selling author Graham Robb was born in Manchester in 1958 and is a former Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. He is an acclaimed historian and biographer, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He has won the Whitbread Biography Prize and the Heinemann Award for Victor Hugo, as well as the Ondaatje Prize and Duff Cooper Prize for The Discovery of France. His book Parisians was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller. He lives on the Anglo-Scottish border.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

The Discovery of France: A Historical Geography, from the Revolution to the First World War 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an absolutely fascinating study of the bits and pieces of France before they became the culture we think France has always been. I had no idea. I am riveted. I can picture this, too, having driven many French backroads and listened to dialects I can't understand. I will now think about France in a new way, and I'll never think of it again as I did before I read this book. Masterful research, analysis, and writing. Required reading.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the most engaging works of nonfiction I have ever read. Many little known facts relating to the very conflicted French identity which I suspect many Americans(and Europeans) will find explainss a lot of things that have always made us uncomfortable about the French people and culture.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book lacked a theme or an organizational thread. The author advocated learning more about the real history of rural France by traveling at bicycle speeds; there was no geographic or historical way he transitioned from one area or time to another. As a result, you were forced to turn to the map at the beginning of the book to determine which area or small town he was talking about, but after awhile, it got so depressing I didn't bother. It was drudgery to get through the book. I have lived in southern France (Bouches-du-Rhone) twice for a total of 18 months; both during professional exchanges. I couldn't disagree more with the author's assessment of the warmth of the people. However, there were some aspects the author revealed of "why people are the way they are" that I had experienced but not understood. My interpretation of those characteristics at the time, and even today, was far less sinister than the author's.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reading this book was like watching TV while my husband holds the remote. Sometimes he changes the channel unexpectedly and it takes me a while to catch up with the new story I find myself watching. And when I really get interested, he pushes that button yet again....Graham Robb has written a sweeping account of France's provinces (outside of Paris): the people, the geography, the history. But he jumps around so much in both time and space that I was often confused. And, without a good map as a reference point, I often didn't know where I was even when the context was otherwise clear.Parts of the book were fascinating, but others were mind-numbingly dull. But, it's the kind of book where you can skip parts without missing information vital to the next section, which I didn't do because I read it for a book club discussion. I learned some interesting facts, but not enough to make me glad I struggled through the full 358 pages of text.
SarahEHWilson on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book has done more to change my view of the past than anything I have ever read. If you're used to history as the story of the big important famous people, this kind of social history will blow you away. The weirdness and wonderfulness of the human imagination, faced with the reality of life on this earth, is breathtaking.
Livana on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to admit I have not finished the book yet, and I'm not sure I will.I was looking for reading a book about the... geography of France. Instead, for the first 40 pages, all I read is how French (or soon-to-be) were uncivilized, wild and savage beast-like people who considered people only a few miles away strangers, who didn't care for national unity or authority, were only concerned with having their own little system without any care for the outside.I am French, and whether this is true or not is not the point, or what bothers me. The point is.. what is Robb Graham's point?? If all he wanted to do was to press upon the readers how illiterate, (and dirty), unpatriotic, and ignorant French people were in the 1700's, he's succeed.I might pick up the book again, but not likely.
demot on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I must admit I was seduced by the wonderful cover photo of Mont-Saint-Michel, and the title which suggests a romantic travel book, where the local peculiarities are grounded in the authors knowledge of local history - something like a H.V.Morton's Traveller in Italy for today (and for France). What you actually get is a social history of the provincial French peasantry from 1780 to 1880. I now find out that the American edition has a sub-title very like this, but not a sign of it on my copy, or on Amazon-UK. However, it is well written and so not as dull as that sounds, in fact it is good to read, and interesting in a rather vague way - paints pictures rather then pushing a thesis. The only way it is 'heavy' is the 400 good-size pages, 100 of which are notes & index, etc. It seems rather to have fallen between two purposes; clearly designed to be academic, as shown by the exhaustive referencing; yet aimed at the general reader who might have been better served if the many years of extensive traveling were brought to the fore, to ground the knowledge in the country we find today. And a fiercer editor might help - not that it is long winded, but I feel the same picture of France could have been painted in half the words. Starting with 50 pages on how dismal life was in rural France 100 years ago does not make for the easiest start to the book. But I am not sorry I persevered, it is a good book, now that I have got used to the sort of book it is.
dchaikin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Discovery of France is about the French cultural geography and how this plays in the history of France. To sum up, at the time of the French Revolution, the French were generally not French. Instead France was a vast concoction of miscellaneous languages and cultures disconnected by the natural barriers and a diverse landscape; and whose goal was generally to continue to barely get by. This could have been a fun book and it could have provided a really nice introduction into France and its geography and culture. It does bring some times and places to life, and it will certainly leave you with an appreciation for the geographic variety in France. The linguistic map is wonderful (although the text on linguistics put me to sleep - several times). The significance of the Pays is fascinating.But, it¿s not fun, more of a discursive lecture. And, it¿s not a good introduction. The author seems to assume his readers are already pretty familiar with France and its basic geographic layout. The writing often gets bogged down in the details ¿ and I would get lost. For example, the book constantly mentions different regions and locations; but, without a good reference as to where they are located and maps designed for the text, it all just washed over me, forgotten.Overall I found the book disappointing and a struggle to read. I didn¿t get much concrete from the book, just a bunch of muddy ideas. A reader familiar with France will probably find this a much nicer book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The information about France is here but the writing is so convoluted that getting it is a chore. There must be better books about France than this one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago