France is on the decline – at least according to what one can often read and hear on the French media or in books. Jean-Jacques Salomon puts this pessimistic view into perspective, comparing and contrasting three recent books: two are by French authors (Jean Boissonnat, Plaidoyer pour une France qui doute [Plea for a France that Doubts]. Paris: Stock, 2004; and Jacques Verrière, L’Embellie française. Questions démographiques, enjeux civiques [The Bright Spell in France. Demographic Questions and Civic Issues]. Paris: Flammarion, 2004), who feel that the diagnosis should not be so harsh and, without denying that the country has problems, emphasize its positive aspects and the reasons for believing that it can recover; in the third, an Italian author, Aldo Schiavone (L’Histoire brisée. La Rome antique et l’Occident moderne [The Shattered History. Ancient Rome and the Modern West]. Paris: Belin, 2003), draws lessons from the decline of the Roman Empire for the West today. Greatness or decay, everything is relative and depends on the period, according to Jean-Jacques Salomon; what matters is to remain confident and sustain the things that underpin progress – the advancement of knowledge and the willingness to work.