LOUIS XIV IN HISTORICAL THOUGHT by William F. Church

LOUIS XIV IN HISTORICAL THOUGHT

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Church's historiographic essay on the Sun King, his chronic wars, his mistresses and his ministers, has all the charm and intellectual daring of an annotated bibliography and it is difficult to imagine who, besides downtrodden graduate students, will read it. Church plows through other historians' verdicts from Voltaire who saw Louis' long reign as the zenith of French culture and civilization, to the Annales school which seems to annoy him with its ""contextual"" studies, structures and forces, demography and economics--an approach which is inimical to all ""great men"" interpretations of events. In between he considers Lemontey (Louis' first serious critic), Michelet, Lavisse, Mousnier and many lesser historians. Despite ongoing disputations (to what extent was Louis' lust for gloire responsible for the endemic warfare which marked the last half of his reign? How was he influenced by Colbert and Louvois, the good and bad genies of his administration?) there is a good deal of consensual agreement. Louis was an administrative wizard; he brought absolutism to its apex; his personal despotism could have no successors and after his death the Ancien Regime decomposed rapidly. Church doesn't venture many opinions of his own other than to rue the fact that diplomatic, institutional and military history--Louis' strong points--are currently out of fashion in France. For a very specialized audience, an oddly static presentation.

Pub Date: Feb. 23rd, 1975
Publisher: Norton