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From Louis XIV to Napoleon: the Fate of a Great Power, Book Review

Black, Jeremy. From Louis XIV to Napoleon: the fate of great power. Routledge, (2013); 10-288.


From 1661 to 1815, France had the most incredible power in Western Europe when Louis XIV and Napoleon dominated the country. However, Louis XIV later died, and Napoleon was defeated in his attempt to resume power, allowing Britain to control the government. The primary purpose of From Louis XIV to Napoleon, the fate of a great power book was to illustrate why France was not more successful with an illustration of France’s history, warfare, international relations and the rise and fall of French power (Black, 14). Professor Jeremy Black, the author of this book, illustrates its purpose with the development of various chapters, such as the diplomatic revolution, its background and consequences and the foreign policy of Napoleon.


Black Jeremy is a professor of history, having studied at Queen’s College Cambridge. He acquired his professorship and PhD in 1994. He has over 100 books illustrating various historical concepts as a writer and lecturer. Thus, the information he has presented in the book, From Louis XIV to Napoleon, the fate of a great power, is reliable and valid. The author says that France was not successful because of its numerous failures that made France on the world scale. According to Black, “France was beaten by Britain in the struggle for maritime predominance and ended the period with her empire in ruins” (10). The book illustrates how poor governance could make a country unproductive. Additionally, Professor Black Jeremy argues that France was unsuccessful because of rigid and limited international relations policies that minimized the interactions of France’s power with that of other nations, such as the United States of America. If these two political men in France could have agreed to step down and allow other leaders to take over France’s leadership, the country would not have recorded the massive failures (Black, 32). Therefore, the writer provided his stand based on his knowledge of international relations and its implication in a country’s leadership standards.

Professor Black Jeremy has argued his points in the book, From Louis XIV to Napoleon, the fate of a great power, through reasoning, evidence and appeal. At the beginning of the book, the author presents logical explanations of why France was unsuccessful. The reasoning is backed up by theories and historical narrations, which indicate the politics of Louis XIV and Napoleon. The author also provides evidence to support all the arguments presented about France’s power using facts, statistics and other historical studies. The evidence that Professor Back Jeremy provides is focused on the politics of France during the reign of Louis XIV and Napoleon. Finally, the author provides an appeal by illustrating and providing recommendations that would be applied to solve the France international relation menace.

The author’s information in the book was extracted from both primary and secondary sources. The author used questionnaires and interviews as major primary sources. The intention was to incorporate the views of France residents on the leadership of Louis XIV and Napoleon. The secondary sources included journals and books where the author extracted information from other authors who had written about the politics of Louis XIV and Napoleon. However, the author is not clear on the sources used; therefore, a reader needs to carefully analyze the resources used in the intext and bibliography to understand the type of sources used to write the book.

The book is structured and organized into chapters, with each chapter illustrating a specific concept about the reasons why France was not successful. The book focused on the period when Louis XIV and Napoleon were in power in France and the effects. Therefore, its discussion is based on a historical period that saw Louis XIV and Napoleon take power in France. The author structured the book’s themes to incorporate rising actions in France and the possible resolutions that would help solve the international relation challenge in the country. In his book, Professor Black Jeremy emphasizes politics and political concepts that might ruin a nation. He also illustrates how the wrong choice of political leaders could influence the operations of a country.


The book, From Louis XIV to Napoleon: the fate of a great power documents the historical events in France that made it unsuccessful despite having the most extraordinary power between the years 1661 to 1815. During the fall and failure, France was under the leadership of Louis XIV and Napoleon. The failure in France has been documented on a world scale and indication that the fall of the country was unexpected because of its intensive powers. The book also addresses France’s global position based on the conflation of foreign policies, colonial roles and military preferences. According to Black, “the trajectory of colonial policy and strength is considered the primary reason France lost out to Britain in both the maritime and colonial sphere” (34). The author illustrates that it is crucial to integrate the aspects of foreign policies with the France policies in Europe to demonstrate the range of French options. Therefore, modern France was shaped by Louis XIV and Napoleon through the substantial acquisition of territories.


The writer is sympathetic to the political practices in France because the situation taking place in the country was not caused by natural factors but by the political leadership of the country. The writer wrote this book to educate people on the historical concepts that occurred during the reign of Louis XIV and Napoleon. However, the writer’s objective is not only to deliver the historical aspects of France but to indicate the influence of political decisions on the prosperity of a nation. The book borrows some opinions and experiences from other writers who had documented the history of France and how the political aspects affected the operations in the country. However, the writer indicated bias in writing the book because he failed to compare the leadership of Louis XIV and Napoleon with that of their predecessors. Although Louis and Napoleon were not perfect in providing political leadership to France, the writer ought to provide a comparative state of their leadership with that of leaders who came before them.

Professor Black Jeremy must be an exemplary historical writer based on the number of historical books he has written and the positive reviews attached to his work. After reading this book, From Louis XIV to Napoleon: the fate of a great power and taking note of all the ideas and views presented, I am satisfied with how the writer proves his thesis. The argument provided is sound and convincing, and it is attached to real examples that expound and explains why France was not successful. However, the writer has failed to answer how France managed to sprout and become among the most powerful nations globally, even after the failures that occurred during the leadership of Louis XIV and Napoleon.

In conclusion, based on my evaluation, this book is written chronologically, with all the views and ideas illustrated exclusively, thus making it exciting and enjoyable. The information in the book will be helpful to students conducting their master’s or undergraduate thesis because it illustrates an in-depth history of France. Moreover, the book will play a significant role among upcoming historical researchers who will borrow information on France’s history to build on their studies. Finally, lecturers and tutors will also become audiences of this book because it will guide the students’ study information in class. Therefore, the book was not only essential to people who lived during the captured historical period but will also form part of a reference in future studies.

Work Cited

Black, Jeremy. From Louis XIV to Napoleon: the fate of a great power. Routledge, (2013); 10-288.


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