Both the golden age of the Renaissance state and the catastrophic era of the Wars of Religion, this fascinating period in French history has been oddly neglected by English-language historians. Professor Baumgartner's book fills a major gap in the textbook market: an accessible, fully current account which covers the principal political, economic and cultural themes from Francois I's successful centralization of the state, through France's near prostration under the Catholic-Huguenot civil war, and ending with the accession of Henri IV.
In this readable history, Baumgartner gives a straightforward account of how feudalism became the early modern eraunimpeded by a strident agenda (well, maybe a little rehabilitating of Catherine de Medici). Starting with the meeting of the Estates General in 1484 and ending with that of 1614 (the last meeting prior to the Revolution), Baumgartner divides this ``long sixteenth century'' into three chronological sections, each with chapters on the monarchy, church, nobility, common people, judiciary and culture and thought. Although its rigidity leads to some tenuous connections (for example, it's not entirely clear why French colonization is in the section on the people, 1562-1614), it's a generally useful program, showing how the different estates were tied together and how each evolved separately. Despite the bloody wars of religion, the Catholic church that would emerge from the century was similar to that which entered it. The most important change was in the monarchy, which, with the help of client judiciary, evolved from a suzerain with rights and responsibilities to vassals to an absolute monarchy, while the nobility's traditional warrior function was abrogated. Although clearly intended for course adoption, Baumgartner's (Henry II: King of France, 1547-1559) history will help a general audience understand how the moyen ge gave way to the ancien rgime. (Dec.)