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Political History of France, 1789-1910

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This little book opens on the eve of the French Revolution. The government is crippled by financial mismanagement, ruled by a King who, in the author's words, is "devoid of both ability and energy," and resented by a tax-oppressed peasantry and a rising middle class. The Revolution escapes the control of its instigators and France is plunged into the Terror and international war. Enter Napoleon, a man with "an enormous capacity for work," who can "get to the root of a matter and master technicalities with great swiftness," but whose "vulgar desire for recognition...and his inability to feel the sufferings of others" ultimately leads to his country's downfall. Davis then presents the careers of Napoleon's successors, including his nephew, Louis Napoleon who, scarcely better than an inept imposter, plunges France in 1870 into the disastrous Franco-Prussian War. In the wake of French defeat, the anti-semitic mass hysteria of the Dreyfus case polarizes French society for over a decade. The book, which was published in 1916, ends in 1910 with France, menaced by Germany, "on the eve of the greatest war the world has ever seen." - Summary by Pamela Nagami, M.D.

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