THE BIRTH OF FRANCE: Warriors, Bishops and Long-Haired Kings by Katharine Scherman

THE BIRTH OF FRANCE: Warriors, Bishops and Long-Haired Kings

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A richly detailed, but nonetheless scrupulously undemanding, account of France's origins--viewed primarily as a lengthy procession of personalities--from the author of The Flowering of Ireland, Daughter of Fire: A Portrait of Iceland, etc. Scherman takes a look at the ""most important political fact of Western Europe"" between the decline of the Roman Empire and Charlemagne's rise to power: the Merovingian Dynasty. This is the story of how the Merovingian line rose out of a violent snarl of migratory tribes harrying the battered fringes of Roman civilization. As the title suggests, Scherman is primarily interested in the individuals responsible for carving out the rough outlines of what eventually became France, beginning with the early, temporary war-kings and moving up through the ranks of successive rulers more permanently installed through the principle of hereditary right. In a somewhat glib style often a little too reminiscent of high-school history texts, old favorites like Clovis, Pope Gregory I, and Charles Martel return to flex and strut across the page, as do a panoply of clansmen, generals, courtiers, and sundry opportunists, all jockeying for position in the background. We're introduced to Hilary of Poitiers and other major figures of the ascendant Christian intelligentsia whose thought coalesced into a distinctive Gallic tradition following Constantine's edict of toleration--and to the lives of French saints and the legends that have grown up around them. Regrettably, little beyond brief summary statements in given over to the larger interplay of social power-blocs vying for dominance in the formative stages of a feudal society. Accessible history as-biography with few surprises.

Pub Date: Aug. 28th, 1987
Publisher: Random House