A narrative of exploration, this historical geography explains how the modern nation of France 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. Illustrated.
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.
is the award-winning biographer of Balzac, Victor Hugo, and Rimbaud. His other books include The Discovery of France, Parisians, and Strangers: Homosexual Love in the Nineteenth Century. He lives in Oxford, England.