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Précis du siècle de Louis XV

Critical edition by Janet Godden and James Hanrahan

The Précis du siècle de Louis XV is an account of Voltaire’s own world. His sources are the memoirs of leading military or political figures, many known to him personally, the wide range of archives and state papers to which he had access as historiographe du roi, what he reads in the press, and what he picks up in conversation. We have moved from Voltaire historian to Voltaire the shrewd eye-witness, writing with vivacity of what he has seen and heard.

Background of this new critical edition

In the edition of his complete works of 1756 Voltaire places the Essai sur les mœurs, Le Siècle de Louis XIV and the early chapters of what became the Précis du siècle de Louis XV in a deliberate sequence, following a plan set out some 10 years before. It is not until 1768 that he publishes the Précis as a work in its own right, adding to the existing chapters the Histoire de la guerre de 1741, of which an unauthorised edition had been published in 1755, and chapters covering the Seven Years’ War and the domestic politics of the later reign. To the edition of 1775 he adds a new chapter on the death of the king.

This edition is the first-ever full critical edition, and will be published in volume 29 of the Complete Works of Voltaire.