France in Modern Times: 1760 to the Present

France in Modern Times: 1760 to the Present

France in Modern Times: 1760 to the Present

France in Modern Times: 1760 to the Present

Excerpt

"On all great subjects, much remains to be said." Macaulay's dictum is comforting to one who seeks to survey the life of a great nation -- and particularly that of France, on which so much has already been said so well. Because the writing of history is a matter of selection and interpretation, no book on a broad topic is ever likely to substitute for those that have gone before; it can only aim to supplement its predecessors. It can present the author's own views and judgments, which to him, at least, seem to have validity and value. And it can try to fuse into manageable form the changing and contradictory interpretations that hundreds of historians past and present have offered us. This volume is designed to be that kind of interpretive synthesis. Its stress is on what Fritz Stern has called "the varieties of history"; it seeks to draw into the story the great mass of monographic and interpretive writing on modern France that has appeared during the past generation.

No historian of our day likes to be accused of methodological naiveté. I ought to say at the outset, therefore, that at least some of the unorthodoxy of this book is quite conscious. If the canons of the profession are to be violated, it is probably safer to do so knowingly and even brazenly, with the warning caveat lector. I have indulged rather often in what Franklin Roosevelt might have called "iffy" history, despite Benedetto Croce's warning that "there is no room in history for the merely possible or the merely probable." I myself think that there . . .

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