In France, as in the Anglo-Saxon world, social history has undergone a sea change in recent years with the growth of interest in issues of culture and representation, with the result that historians have come to ask rather different questions about cities and their social fabric. The change was not, of course, achieved overnight: since the 1930s the Annalistes have been opening up new approaches to the analysis of power and status, while in the development of micro-history Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie's Montaillou occupies an honoured place. In this the lingering influence of a Marxist model has played an important part. For decades Marxist theory provided the key which opened up issues of social power and class division, the methodology which led to a widespread study of urban structures and social dominance. And though in some hands it might be criticized for leading to an over-arching concern with the urban economy and the growth of the industrial city, the same Marxist perspective also encouraged studies of such questions as the identity of urban elites, the extent of social mobility within cities and the development of suburbs. More recently French historians have been among the most innovative in exploring the culture of urban life in a variety of different contexts, whether – and here I shall simply cite representative examples – by the study of individual professions (Christophe Charle), of dress and public appearance (Daniel Roche), or of the appropriation of urban space (Bernard Lepetit). The three books under review here all, in their different ways, contribute to our understanding of that urban culture and of the changes which it has undergone. Yannec Le Marec takes up Charle's arguments through a micro-history of the professional development of lawyers and doctors in the south Breton city of Nantes during the nineteenth century. Natacha Coquery, looking at the eighteenth century, explains the representation of social power implicit in the transfer of sumptuous Paris hôtels from private use to that of government ministries and their fast-multiplying staff. And Claude Petitfrère presents an edited collection of papers, emanating from a conference organized by the highly influential Centre d'histoire de la ville moderne et contemporaine in his own university at Tours, which illuminates across time and place the ways in which an urban patriciate was first constructed, then reproduced and represented to contemporaries. Taken together the three volumes go far to illustrate current developments in historiography and offer an overview of the present state of urban social history in France.