A comprehensive study of France's transition from the Middle Ages, through the Renaissance, to the ancien râ€šgime. Baumgartner (History/Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ.) has previously examined the history of France through its dominant personalities such as Henry II and Louis XII. Here he expands that approach to include social, religious, economic, and cultural aspects of what has been called France's ""Long Sixteenth Century"" (1484-1614). Political affairs, though, still loom as the catalytic force in Baumgartner's analysis. The two events that frame this long century are two meetings of the Estates General, France's version of a representative political institution comprising the monarchy, the aristocracy, the clergy, and the commoners. The earlier meeting, in 1484, under Charles VIII, represents the point of transition from the medieval to the Renaissance monarchy; while the 1614 meeting, the last before the outbreak of the French Revolution, was directed by Louis XIII and marked the birth of French absolutism. As such, the study provides a much-needed insight into the world that was responsible for creating the conditions that French society rejected later, at the end of the 18th century. The 130-year period is stamped with the imprint of the Renaissance and the Reformation. The book is ""an introduction to a detailed history of sixteenth-century France"" and divided into three parts: 1484-1530; 1530-62; 1562-1614. Each part examines questions concerning the monarchy, the Church, the nobility, the people, justice, and culture and thought. While this construction might seem to falsely compartmentalize French society, there is a clear vision of the interrelatedness of the various parts. Although hardly appropriate as an ""introduction"" to a neophyte in French history, Baumgartner's work is nevertheless important for examining the foundations of French absolutism of the 17th and 18th centuries.