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Siècle de Louis XIV

Edition critique par Diego Venturino et al.

2015 marked the 300th anniversary of the death of Louis XIV (1638-1715), the Sun King, whose reign defined the era of the ‘Grand Siècle’ and saw France rise to become the dominant player on the European stage. To mark this anniversary, the Voltaire Foundation, in collaboration with the Centre de recherche du Château de Versailles, is publishing Voltaire’s seminal account of his reign, the Siècle de Louis XIV (1751), the first major overall account of the reign of Louis XIV. This text is the starting-point for any reflection on the political and cultural history of the era of the Sun King, and is a monument of eighteenth-century historiography, paving the way for both modern historiography and literary history.

Background of this new critical edition

The lasting success of this flagship work is due to the depth of Voltaire’s insight into the people and events that he is describing and to his historical method, which was remarkable for its day. The emphasis on first-hand accounts from those who witnessed events and on the perspective of the age as a whole rather than a parade of facts bears the stamp of Voltaire.This edition is the first-ever full critical edition, and will be published in volumes 11-13 of the Complete Works of Voltaire. It takes as its base text the last version of the work that Voltaire authorised (1775), and gives variant readings from all preceding versions of the text. It will include the Catalogue des écrivains français qui ont paru dans le siècle de Louis XIV, an important and fascinating work in its own right. The edition will be supplied with an index with full names and dates of all persons mentioned in the text.


‘The Siècle de Louis XIV is the foundational text of French literary history. This edition reveals the depth of erudition that lies behind each of Voltaire’s lines, and it highlights the central role of the Siècle in the emergence of modern historical thinking.’

Pierre Force, Professor of French and History, Columbia University

‘Ce magnifique travail savant devrait permettre au lecteur de prendre la mesure de la puissance critique de tout l’ouvrage qui, jusque dans ses pages les plus narratives, affronte la question de la preuve et du doute dans l’écriture de l’histoire.’

Christian Jouhaud, Directeur d’études à L’Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales