by Peter Watson
'Majestic, ambitious' Literary Review
We are endlessly fascinated by the French. We are fascinated by their way of life, their creativity and sophistication, and even their insistence that they are exceptional. But how did France become the country it is today, and what really sets it apart?
Historian Peter Watson sets out to answer these questions in this dazzling history of France, taking us from the seventeenth century to the present day through the nation's most influential thinkers. He opens the doors to the Renaissance salons that brought together poets, philosophers and scientists, and tells the forgotten stories of the extraordinary women who ran these institutions, fostering a culture of stylish intellectualism unmatched anywhere else in the world. It's a story that takes us into Bohemian cafes and cabarets, into chic Parisian high culture via French philosophies of food, fashion and sex, and through two explosive revolutions.
The French Mind is a history propelled by the writers, revolutionaries and painters who loved, inspired and rivalled one another over four hundred years. It documents the shaping of a nation whose global influence, in art, culture and politics, cannot be overstated.
'An encyclopaedic celebration of French intellectuals refusing to give up on universal principles, while remaining slim, bringing up well-behaved children and falling in love at every opportunity' The Times
'An engaging movement through time towards France's recent reckonings with extremism, exceptionalism and empire' TLS
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Date of Publication: 02/03/2023