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The Invention of France by Misha Glenny

bookshelves: history, france, radio-4, autumn-2015, nonfiction, nonfic-nov-2015, journalism
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read on November 11, 2015



Episode 1 description: On a bridge at Montereau in northern France, two warring groups met to resolve their differences. Then in a moment straight out of Game of Thrones, supporters of one group struck the leader of the other full in the face with an axe. The kingdom was convulsed by civil war, its very existence under threat. Just four years earlier, at Agincourt, the English had won a famous victory - now the way lay open for the English king, Henry V, to claim all France as his own. And it was the murder on the bridge that made this possible. In later years, holding up the dead man's skull, a guide used to tell his audience, "Through this hole the English entered France."

In the first Invention of France, presenter Misha Glenny explores a crucial period in history, when France faced extinction ... until the arrival of Joan of Arc. With compelling contributions from Helen Castor, Anne Curry, the French ambassador in London Sylvie Bermann, Desmond Seward and Professor Francoise Michaud-Frejaville.


Episode 2: On July 28 1794 one of the great names of the French Revolution met madame guillotine in front of the Parisian mob. Maximilien Robespierre lived quite nearby his place of execution, in Rue Saint Honore where he lodged with a master carpenter called Maurice Duplay. Robespierre was a pacifist, a man of the people ... yet no other name is more associated with the Terror than this man, and his death is among the most dramatic of all these bloody years.

In the second Invention of France, Misha Glenny explores the impact of the Revolution through the life of this man. Robespierre troubles many French people - the plaque on his house has been scratched away in the past. Why has he taken virtually all the blame for the executions and chaos of these years? Perhaps he plays a similar role to Oliver Cromwell, except French history is not the same as ours, not all.

Napoleon III


Episode 3 description: Two hours north east of Paris is a famous battlefield. The defeated French leader was called Napoleon, but the battle was not Waterloo. It was Sedan, and lining up against the French, the Prussians. The defeated French leader was Napoleon's nephew, le petit Napoleon, otherwise known as the emperor Napoleon III. This battle, in 1870, set up the dynamic that led to two world wars.

In the final Invention of France, Misha Glenny explores a crucial year for all western Europe. France was invaded, Paris bombarded, and Alsace occupied. January 18th 1871, a humiliating event - the proclamation of a new German empire, announced not in Germany but in the Palace of Versailles. Europe would never be the same.

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