JOHN RONALD MACDONALD-MORETON (1873–1921)
A History Of France (1915)
"THIS book was in the press before anyone dreamt that we should be standing beside our traditional enemy on the very battlefields where we have so often confronted her. No alterations have been made to meet the new conditions : history can never be wholly free from bias, but a history of France written or revised during such a crisis as the present would be so biassed as to lose its value. I may, however, be allowed to say how conscious I am that I have overstated the temperamental characteristics, and in particular the temperamental weaknesses, of the French. The truly remarkable way in which, under the present trial, France has purified herself of her traditional vices and developed virtues which were supposed to be quite alien to her character drives one to the conclusion, not only that the temperamental qualities of nations change more rapidly than we have been accustomed to think, but also that they are often only qualities which have been foisted on nations by noisy minorities.
Two things seem to me to constitute the difficulty and the interest of French history—the lack of the historical sense in her people, and the adamantine strength of her nationality. Frenchmen live by instinct rather than by tradition and the range of their political vision is short. The consequence is that they have always been ready to break with the past, and this peculiarity accounts for a certain lack of sequence in French history and for much that, to the English mind, nurtured as it is on tradition, is difficult to comprehend.
It is no doubt partly due to this lack of the historical sense that France is of all the European nations the most truly national, for the sense of nationality is based on instinct rather than on tradition or reason. Whether this intensity of the national sense is due to the impress made by Rome on the most ductile material that ever came to her hand or whether it may be traced to causes more intricate and more profound, it is, happily, not the task of the historian to decide. The fact remains that a nation which has survived a revolution such as that of 1789 and catastrophes such as those of Napoleon I and Napoleon III is indestructible. That word has of late been much on the lips of her statesmen ; it expresses a truth more profound than they are perhaps aware of." (Preface)
Volume 1: https://archive.org/details/historyoffrance01more/page/n5
Volume 2: https://archive.org/details/historyoffrance02more/page/n5
Volume 3: https://archive.org/details/historyoffrance03more/page/n5
Suggest and discuss books to read (all languages welcome!)
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