Monday, 17 April 2017

The French Riviera a History

The French Riviera is a very important place in France. And one might imagine that tome after tome of work had been published covering the history of the French Riviera.

One might imagine that would be the case, but one would be incorrect.

Author Michael Nelson reveals that when he was launching his book Americans and the Making of the Riviera in the French city of Nice in 2008, the owner of the English Book Centre in Valbonne, mentioned to him that customers frequently visited her shop asking for an English language book on the general history of the French Riviera, only for her to have to inform them that no such book existed.

She added to him: "Why don't you write one?" Spurred on by her request, Nelson turned to the task of  researching and writing that very book, The French Riviera, a History.

Although the book is not what one could consider over to be over long, it is a comprehensive book that gives the reader illuminating glimpses of the history of the French Riviera from prehistoric times to the modern era.

We learn about the early settlers (600BC, Greeks fleeing from Turkey to escape the marauding hordes of Persian expansionists) to the Romans, to the rule of the Merovingian King Childebert, during 536AD to 558AD.

During the Middle Ages it was fought over by Spain, Italy and France, all who found it a most desirable prize.

Tourism began to become important to the economy of the area in the 18th century, when it became popular with wealthy Britons seeking a home for the winter far away from the cold, wt weather of the British Isles.

Nelson points out that an early tourist was, in fact, the American politician Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson wrote many letters during his time in the Riviera. These letters still exist because Jefferson took with him what was, for that time, a technological marvel, a portable copying machine.

Monarchs, including Queen Victoria, brough regal fame to the Riviera during the latter part of the 19th century, and after the First World War American visitors brought about the existence of  the summer tourist season.

The book is copiously illustrated -of particular note is the Bronze Age rock carving dubbed the Sorcerer, who is shown wielding two daggers.

The book is of immense value to the casual reader or the dedicated scholar and at the price of £13.99 belongs on the bookshelf or in the suitcase of anyone who is looking to visit this fascinating area.

It is published by Matador and is available for purchase at the That's Books and Entertainment Bookshop, here

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