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The Age of Louis XIV cover art

The Age of Louis XIV

Written by: Will Durant,Ariel Durant
Narrated by: Stefan Rudnicki
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Publisher's Summary

The Age of Louis XIV is the biography of a period (1648 - 1715) that Spengler considered the apex of modern European civilization. "Some centuries hence," Frederick the Great correctly predicted to Voltaire, "they will translate the good authors of the age of Pericles and Augustus." Those authors are lovingly treated here: Pascal, Racine, and Boileau, Madame de Sévigné, Madame de la Fayette, and above all the philosopher-dramatist Molière, who so memorably exposed the vices and hypocrisies of the age.

Central to the audiobook is the "Sun King" himself, Louis XIV. Louis XIV ruled France for over seventy years, longer than almost any European ruler in history. He is the subject of a character study that runs through seven chapters, revealing the flesh and blood beneath the purple and the crown. He is seen at his worst in his struggle with Jansenists and Huguenots, at his best in his patronage of literature and art, and at his most human in his love affairs with Henrietta Anne of Orléans, Louise de La Vallière, Madame de Montespan, and Madame de Maintenon.

From France the narrative passes to the Netherlands, and after pausing to examine the domestic idylls of Vermeer, shows the Dutch opening their dikes to save their land from Louis XIV and sending William of Orange to become king of England and a leader of the European alliance against Louis' hegemony.

In England, we contemplate the heyday of virtue under the Puritans and study the strange character of Cromwell. We see Milton's passionate career as part of the vain effort to prevent the Stuart Restoration. We find Charles II, the "Merry Monarch", with more manners than morals, attend boisterous Restoration plays; we skim the diaries of Evelyn and Pepys; and we follow Jonathan Swift from genius to insanity.

Crossing the North Sea, we trace the tragic heroism of Charles XII of Sweden and the attempt of Peter the Great to lead Russia from barbarism to civilization.

©1963 Will and Ariel Durant (P)2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about The Age of Louis XIV

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Informative and enjoyable

It covers a wide selection of events and topics of a century of European history in a very clearly written and read manner.

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  • Michael
  • 2015-07-15

One of the Best of a Great Series


This is the 8th book of the 11 book excellent, integrated history, Story of Civilization series. For my review of the series as a whole see my review of “Our Oriental Heritage”.

This is one of the most enjoyable and interesting books of the series. It blends art and philosophy, war and commerce, politics and finance into an enlightening whole. The author gives well balanced portrayals of many of the pivotal figures of the time. The long section on Leibniz was particularly fascinating as Leibniz is often overlooked.

This book starts and ends with the long life of Louis XIV (1643-1715), and he plays a large part in the narrative, but the action is all replayed several times viewed from France, England, Russia, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. This repetition of events from different points of view is one of the great things about this book and this series.

The narration is superb, projecting the material with clarity and nuance, including well representing the author’s subtle and wry humor.

This is not quite my favorite book of this series, but it is one of the best.

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27 people found this helpful

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  • Raleigh
  • 2017-10-11

Most Inclusive History of the Period Yet

The Story of Civilization is a fascinating read. This book, in particular, shed extensive light on a period not necessarily clear to non-Europeans. And none of the histories I've read / listened to by far have had the courage the Durants have to create a digestible but inclusive series of history.

The Day-long duration is kind of intimidating and unappetizing, but when you started listening, it sinks in very fast and you soon realize you've gone through quite a number of hours just by listening to the book. However, the length also means quite a number of the stories told would inevitably be forgotten during the listen, so it's worth repeating the book several times.

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  • Eric Lymon
  • 2016-06-29

Purported history with no support to back it up

What disappointed you about The Age of Louis XIV?

The author makes numerous unsupported judgements about the character and personality of various historical figures. This is not history. This is dogma without citing or reciting primary source material to illustrate his point of view. A reader can find credible history elsewhere.

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  • DeMar Southard
  • 2017-10-10

Great history books!

Loved every minute. Narrator is great. The Durante are masters of the English language. Someday I'll have these in my physical library to re-read.

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  • JimD
  • 2023-04-28

Chapter List and Titles Aligned With Original Book

The audiobook chapter list consists of chapters numbered 1-30 that are not aligned with the book's 24 chapters, nor are the chapter titles provided. I've included a complete list below. The numbers in parentheses on the left refer to chapters 1-30 in the audiobook:

(1) Preface
(2) BOOK I: THE FRENCH ZENITH 1643–1715 - Chapter I: The Sun Rises 1643–84
(4) Chapter II: The Crucible of Faith 1643–1715
(6) Chapter III: The King and the Arts 1643–1715
(7) Chapter IV: Molière 1622-73
(8) Chapter V: The Classic Zenith in French Literature 1643–1715
(9) Chapter VI: Tragedy in the Netherlands 1649–1715
(10) BOOK II: ENGLAND 1649–1714 - Chapter VII: Cromwell 1649–60
(11) Chapter VIII: Milton 1608–74
(12) Chapter IX: The Restoration 1660–85
(14) Chapter X: The Glorious Revolution 1685–1714
(15) Chapter XI: From Dryden to Swift 1660–1714
(17) BOOK III: THE PERIPHERY 1648–1715 - Chapter XII: The Struggle for the Baltic 1648–1721
(18) Chapter XIII: Peter the Great 1698–1725
(19) Chapter XIV: The Changing Empire 1648–1715
(20) Chapter XV: The Fallow South 1648–1715
(21) Chapter XVI: The Jewish Enclaves 1564–1715
(22) BOOK IV: THE INTELLECTUAL ADVENTURE 1648–1715 - Chapter XVII: From Superstition to Scholarship 1648–1715
(23) Chapter XVIII: The Scientific Quest 1648–1715
(24) Chapter XIX: Isaac Newton 1642–1727
(25) Chapter XX: English Philosophy 1648–1715
(27) Chapter XXI: Faith and Reason in France 1648–1715
(28) Chapter XXII: Spinoza 1632–77
(29) Chapter XXIII: Leibniz 1646–1716
(30) BOOK V: FRANCE AGAINST EUROPE 1683–1715 - Chapter XXIV: The Sun Sets

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2023-07-30

Another Wonderful Historical Anthology.

Another simply wonderful account of history. What I live about Durant's writing is that he covers all aspects of life during the times and then places events and personalities in perspective over time, contribution to their field of endeavor, and relative juxtaposition as compared to others in the field. I wish I had paid more attention in history class (or maybe so little time was given to the topic that the paucity of my understanding of European history is not surprising). I am a more learned person for getting through the several volumes completed so far. On to the next.

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  • Mike Stacey
  • 2023-05-14

Again, incredible

Another immaculate work of story telling of the history of all. The reading is also excellent, as always

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  • Bryan
  • 2023-03-19

Great continuation to the series

This is by far my least favorite of the series thus far, not due to the quality of the writing but due to the era itself. I was expecting so much more but really the section on Louie the 14th was quite minimal for this installment to be named for him. A better title would have been, "The age of reason, part 2", for that part of the work is more than five stars, just as the proceeding installments were. I definitely recommend this to anybody interested in wanting to know more about the era or interested in this wonderful series.

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  • Dale L
  • 2023-02-24

Now I Know What a Durant History Is Like

I've always wanted to find out what the Durant history books are like, and I was particularly interested in learning more about Louis XIV, so I picked this one. The first thing to know is that you shouldn't ignore the part of the title that says "The Age of," because quite a lot of the book is not about Louis XIV but rather about the times in which he lived. That's OK, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting.

I would say that there is rather more French in the work than I needed. I don't speak French, and although the narrator obviously does and was just reading what is in the book, at times it became tedious and distracting. There is also a huge amount of material in the book about the important authors of the age like Milton. Again, that's not necessarily bad, but it went well beyond what I was expecting. There is also a great deal of material about what is happening in other countries during the time.

For me, I would have been happier with a work that just concentrated more on Louis XIV, but it seemed like more than half of the book was about other things. It is what it is, and all of it was well done, but you need to understand what you're getting into.

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  • Tobias List
  • 2023-02-06

Excellent

Like the volumes that come before this is another fantastic installment. Looking forward to the last two volumes.

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