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Mésentente cordiale

A new book brilliantly dissects the fraught history of the Anglo-French relationship

By Tim King   April 2006

That Sweet Enemy by Robert and Isabelle Tombs William Heineman, £25

This book, all 680 pages of it, is masterly. Two authors, husband and wife, one an English academic, the other a French scholar, have researched and synthesised an extraordinary amount of material about one of the world’s most intense, infuriating and important relationships. The bibliography includes 950 books. As the authors say in their introduction, this is not “a parallel or comparative history” of the two nations. Instead it explores in depth everything connected with their mutual contact.

The book starts in 1688—the year William of Orange came to…

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