When we think of France, we tend think of fine food and wine, the elegant boulevards of Paris or the chic beaches of St Tropez. Yet, as the largest country in Europe, France is home to extraordinary diversity. The idea of 'Frenchness' emerged through 2,000 years of history and it is this riveting story, from the Roman conquest of Gaul to the present day, that Cecil Jenkins tells: of the forging of this great nation through its significant people and events and and its fascinating culture. As he unfolds this narrative, Jenkins shows why the French began to see themselves as so different from the rest of Europe, but also why, today, the French face the same problems with regard to identity as so many other European nations.
A survey of French history from the reign of Louis XI to the outbreak of the Wars of Religion that isolates some of the controversial theories of the period: state building, nobility and clientage and the Reformation and discusses them with full attention to the regional diversity of France. It also introduces the reader to recent research on the court and government set in the context of the basic social and economic movements of the period. It is argued that the basic identity of France as a nation was reinforced under the aegis of monarchical legitimacy backed by the nobility and the church, setting the pattern for the rest of the Ancien Regime.