The Discovery of France

The Discovery of France

A Historical Geography

Book - 2008
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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.

Publisher: New York : W. W. Norton, 2008, c2007
ISBN: 9780393333640
Branch Call Number: 944 ROB
Characteristics: xvii, 454 p., [16] p. of plates : ill. (some col.), maps ; 21 cm


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Dec 12, 2017

Review for the Library
This is an ambitious project covering the general lay of the land, the attitudes and type of people inhabiting this unknown blob of European territory. The author obviously loves France, speaks French, and writes well. I found the most interesting part about earlier, unknown France and the lack of any sense of nationality or common language. However, as the book went on, themes seemed to jump around a bit too much to keep my interest and I didn’t finish it. If you are a Francophile with little knowledge of early, unorganized France, this may be what you need to fill in the gaps in your general knowledge.

Feb 15, 2013

So far a fascinating episode. Refer to "The time Traveler's Guide to Medieval England", "A Distant Mirror" and Mantels books as well.

Dec 17, 2009

Great book. Just when you thought that you knew everything about France that could be known. Wrong! Really challenges our perceptions of our modern society. It seems strange that in the 1800s and early 1900s so little was known about some places in France; the languages, the culture, history, lifestyles.

Highly recommended for francophiles and those interested in recent European history and culture.

Feb 19, 2009

Very entertaining digest of facts about rural France in 18-19th centuries.

The book paints a picture of stunning differences between imaginative France that quilted from books and movies in our heads and actual, not so easy and modern life, of the French provinces. Shows country in transition from medieval style of life to industrial society.

Based on archival findings and author's travel experience.
Great for history lovers.

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