By Alistair Horne
La Belle France is a sweeping, grand narrative written with the entire verve, erudition and vividness which are the hallmarks of the acclaimed British historian Alistair Horne. It recounts the highly soaking up tale of the rustic that has contributed to the realm loads expertise, variety and political innovation.
Beginning with Julius Caesar’s department of Gaul into 3 elements, Horne leads us—in fast, illuminating vignettes—through the a long time: from Charlemagne, Philippe-Auguste and the sunlight King, Louis XIV, to Cardinal Richelieu and Napoleon Bonaparte, Charles de Gaulle and Jacques Chirac. He exhibits us a rustic that has suffered and survived doubtless never-ending battle: the Hundred Years’ struggle, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, the Franco-Prussian conflict, international Wars I and II and colonial battles in Indochina and Algeria. He offers us luminous photographs of the nation’s nice leaders, yet he's as thorough and compelling in his discussions of the lives of the peasants, the haute bourgeoisie, the sansculottes of the Revolution and the nice philosophers and writers, artists and composers—Montaigne, Voltaire, Balzac, Renoir, Bizet, Monet, Proust, Satie and Sartre, between them—who have assisted in shaping Western concept and culture.
This is a captivating, superbly illustrated and accomplished but concise heritage of France.
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Additional resources for La Belle France: A Short History
If, for example, the rules regarding male and female attire at the court of Versailles were intended to ensure the visual prestige and honor of the absolutist monarchy, courtiers could exploit nuances within the established code to express their greater attachment to or alienation from the king. A circle of young aristocrats thus expressed their frustration with the tradition-bound court of the aging Louis XIV with an exaggeratedly fashionable, foppish way of dressing. 9 It is also doubtful that any society harbors a unitary clothing system that is transparent and meaningful to all its members in the same way.
26 A closer look at the garments produced by seamstresses reveals that this development more likely took place between the 1670s and 1700, suggesting that crucial changes in mentalities and attitudes may have occurred a century earlier than Roche and others have argued. More profoundly, the seamstresses also underline the constant interrelation between production and consumption. The very deﬁnition of their trade identiﬁed female producers of clothing with the female consumers who purchased and wore it.
24 Women usually wore the dress skirt open in the front to reveal a matching underskirt. The bodice with trained skirt and matching underskirt together formed the habit, which was called a grand habit when made for wear at court. 25 Reinforced by numerous strips of whalebone and tightly laced down the back, the dress bodice held the spine erect, pulled the shoulders back, compressed the stomach and the waist, and molded the breasts. Cut low over the chest and shoulders, it did not serve to hide the woman’s body, but to impose a rigid silhouette on it.
La Belle France: A Short History by Alistair Horne