Siècle de Louis XIV by Voltaire (critical edition by Diego Venturino) - T. 13A

Work published with the scientific and financial support of the CRCV.

Œuvres complètes de Voltaire : Siècle de Louis XIV (III). Chapitres 1-12, directed by Diego Venturino, “Œuvres complètes de Voltaire” Collection, t. 13A, Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, May 2015, xxxiv + 408 p., 19 black & white illustrations (ISBN-13: 978-0-7294-0965-0).


2015 marked the 300th anniversary of the death of the Sun King, Louis XIV (1638-1715), whose reign defined the era of the “Grand Siècle”, and saw France become the major power in Europe. To mark this anniversary, the Voltaire Foundation of Oxford University, in collaboration with the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles, is publishing the Siècle de Louis XIV, Voltaire’s seminal work and the first major account of Louis XIV’s reign. This is essential reading for anyone interested in the political and cultural history of the era of the Sun King.

This new critical edition, edited by Diego Venturino, was published between 2015 and 2019 in seven volumes (volumes 11A, 11B, 12, 13A, 13B, 13C and 13D of Œuvres complètes de Voltaire) with the academic and financial support of the Centre de recherche du château de Versailles.

First drafted in the early 1730s, published in 1751, revised and amended until 1775, the Siècle de Louis XIV is an outstanding work in the career of the historian and philosopher Voltaire, paving the way for both modern historiography and literary history. The first overall perspective of the reign of Louis XIV, Voltaire’s work remains today the (often controversial) starting point for any reflection on the political and cultural history of the era of the Sun King, and a great example of eighteenth century historiography.

This volume (t. 13A) contains the first twelve chapters of this foundational text. Firstly, Voltaire lays out the manifesto of his historiographical project: his history of Louis XIV is not that of a man but of a century. These twelve chapters examine in turn the king’s accession to the throne, the political background in Europe, the upheavals of the Thirty Years War and the Fronde, the death of Cardinal Mazarin and the start of the Louis XIV’s personal rule. Turning to the military situation, Voltaire describes the outbreak of the wars of conquest in the 1660s and 1670s, especially in the Netherlands and Franche-Comté, and the reputation earned by the young king. The retirement of the Grand Condé and death of the Maréchal de Turenne, addressed at the end of chapter 12, mark the end of the first phase of Louis XIV’s reign, a reign of undimmed glory.

The text is enriched with annotation and commentary, which elucidates Voltaire’s sources and the historiographical context in which he was working. It also benefits from nineteen illustrations, most of which are taken from the rarely seen collections of the Château de Versailles.

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