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There are various ways of reading Timothy Garton Ash's History of the Present and I shall try to look at it through four different sets of criteria. These are iconographical, historical-historiographical, political and sociological, and, finally, literary.
When it first appeared in hardback in 1994, John Rohl's remarkable collection of essays won the Wolfson History Prize. And clearly it deserved to. This is how history should be written--with lucidity and originality, displaying on every page the workings of an inquiring mind, one that has examined and re-examined all available sources to reach its own, independent conclusions.
As even the most casual observer of the British historical scene must know, the 'agricultural revolution' has proved both elusive and highly contentious. French 'immobilism', on the other hand, has become something of a commonplace, although explanations for this supposed failure are less consensual. Philip Hoffman's very welcome new book has two overriding merits.
This book is an English translation by Mark Greengrass of a work first published in French in 1991 and is the companion volume to the author's earlier The Royal French State 1460-1610 (original French edn. 1987). Together the two books comprise the second and third volumes of Blackwell's five volume History of France which covers the period 987 to 1992.