Alistair Horne   Seven Ages of Paris  
Alistair Horne  
Read an Interview with Alistair Horne

Read an Excerpt from Seven Ages of Paris

Listen to Alistair Horne read from Seven Ages of Paris


Alistair Horne is a preeminent historian, journalist and Oxford fellow who has written seventeen books, many of them on the military history of France. Seven Ages of Paris is a work of tremendous insight and true love.

It opens with a visit to the fantastic myths inspired by the origins of the naming of the city—the best is that it was named for Paris of Troy. Paris is also called la ville lumiere. Horne is convincing in his suggestion that the light is as evocative a manifestation of her destiny as the Seine and intoxicates with as much potency.

Phillipe Auguste was the first ruler to gather Frankish power into the heart of Paris but it was Henri IV for whom Horne writes with the highest esteem. Henri IV defined la gloire for every leader to follow and no one ever fulfilled his destiny or hers, as Horne makes clear—Paris is a woman—with greater determination, courage, skills or charm. It is with good humor that Horne delivers his final assessment of Henri IV—he lost control because of his amorous indiscretion. He unfailingly wrote of his strategies in battle to his current lover but his mistresses were exchanged with greater swiftness than his letters were delivered.

In Horne's words, Seven Ages of Paris is the biography of the city as a "long, exciting life of a sexy and beautiful, but also turbulent, troublesome and sometimes excessively violent woman."

In this issue of Bold Type, Alistair Horne graces us with a reading of his Preface to the Seven Ages of Paris. There is a conversation with him about his writing of this book and an excerpt.

—Catherine McWeeney

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  Photo credit: Jerry Bauer

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