A tremendous theme challengingly capsulated in 700 pages, disciplined with a tight and thoroughgoing scholarship, streamlined with a sort of little-magazine sophistication. It is, actually, an excellent example of the New Look in historical writing: succinct, synthetic, relatively swift, geared to the large issues, the formative factors. One author handles the Middle Ages, the other Modern and Contemporary France; each interprets the cultural past (or present) vis-a-vis social, political, economic and religious structures. Thus the aerating of varying movements, oppositions, assimilations: manorial society into the, ourgeois, the spiritual into the secular, royalty into republicanism, Commerce, class rivalries, wars, humanists, fanaticists, peasants- all are fluently observed. Splendid set-pieces on the Gothic, the Enlightenment, the Revolution; lively anecdotes quite as telling as the headier comments; portraits of famous figures as well as theological analyses, literary appraisals. Rich, readable and zesty, a big boon for students.