Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, from 1453 to the Present

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Overview


If there is a fundamental truth of geopolitics, it is this: whoever controls the core of Europe controls the entire continent, and whoever controls all of Europe can dominate the world. Over the past five centuries, a rotating cast of kings and conquerors, presidents and dictators have set their sights on the European heartland, desperate to seize this pivotal area or at least prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. From Charles V and Napoleon to Bismarck and Cromwell, from Hitler and Stalin to Roosevelt ...
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Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, from 1453 to the Present

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Overview


If there is a fundamental truth of geopolitics, it is this: whoever controls the core of Europe controls the entire continent, and whoever controls all of Europe can dominate the world. Over the past five centuries, a rotating cast of kings and conquerors, presidents and dictators have set their sights on the European heartland, desperate to seize this pivotal area or at least prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. From Charles V and Napoleon to Bismarck and Cromwell, from Hitler and Stalin to Roosevelt and Gorbachev, nearly all the key power players of modern history have staked their titanic visions on this vital swath of land.

In Europe, prizewinning historian Brendan Simms presents an authoritative account of the past half-millennium of European history, demonstrating how the battle for mastery there has shaped the modern world. Beginning in 1453, when the collapse of the Byzantine Empire laid Europe open to Ottoman incursion and prompted the dramatic expansion of the Holy Roman Empire, Simms leads readers through the epic struggle for the heart of Europe. Stretching from the Low Countries through Germany and into the North Italian plain, this relatively compact zone has historically been the richest and most productive on earth. For hundreds of years, its crucial strategic importance stoked a seemingly unending series of conflicts, from the English Civil War to the French Revolution to the appalling world wars of the 20th century. But when Europe is in harmony, Simms shows, the entire world benefits—a lesson that current leaders would do well to remember.

A bold and compelling work by a renowned scholar, Europe integrates religion, politics, military strategy, and international relations to show how history—and Western civilization itself—was forged in the crucible of Europe.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Bloody European statecraft and the interminable battle over Germany make the world go round in this magisterial history of modern international relations. Cambridge historian Simms (Unfinest Hour) surveys five centuries of European—and occasionally American—diplomacy, alliance-building, and warfare, from the 16th-century clashes between Spanish-Austrian Habsburgs and their French and Dutch rivals to today’s wrangles over E.U. budgets and overseas military deployments. At the center of his account is Germany, the sleeping giant whose fragmentation under the Holy Roman Empire, he argues, tempted foreign hegemons into endless military adventures—and whose unification under the Kaisers and Hitler sparked world wars. Simms chronicles this kaleidoscope of conflicts and coalitions with a graceful briskness that teases larger themes out of the welter of detail. His perspective is the antithesis of Annales-style, bottom-up social history: here it is the lofty power plays of kings and diplomats, egged on by hawkish publics, that create modernity by driving transformations in politics, religion, finance, and ideology. It sometimes overreaches—was the Russian Revolution really “a protest... against the failure of the Tsar to prosecute the conflict against Germany more vigorously”?—but Simms’s vision of great-power rivalry as the motor of history offers compelling insights amid a grand narrative sweep. 20 b&w photos, 8 maps. Agent: Michael Carlisle, Inkwell Management. (May 1)
From the Publisher
Wall Street Journal
“Prodigious….If postmodern scholarship has Ranke spinning in his grave, Mr. Simms’s book will give his weary soul some rest…. This is the history of Richelieu, Metternich and Kissinger, not of Luther, Newton and Beethoven. Such a summary may sound arid, but Europe is anything but. In fact, it draws the reader forward with its grand epic of shifting alliances, clashing armies and ambitious statecraft. Simms is a skilled writer with a rare gift for compressed analysis. His focus on the military and diplomatic arc of European history lends his book a strong narrative line and thematic coherence. Patterns emerge that might have remained buried in a more various survey.”

Economist, Favorite Book of the Year
“An original take on Europe’s history that shows that German power was a concern long before the country formally came into being in the late 19th century, and perhaps as far back as the mid-1400s. A compelling and provocative thesis that has lessons for politicians today.”

The Economist
“Brendan Simms’s new history [is] especially timely. He has, in effect, dropped a big stone into the European pond and stood back to watch the ripples spread…. It is a compelling and provocative thesis…. This is sweeping history, told with verve and panache, and it is all the more refreshing for that.”

Financial Times
Europe is a stimulating, impressive history that starts with the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 and extends to the present day….An excellent read and its insights into the grand themes of European history are penetrating and lucidly argued.”

The Telegraph
"Brendan Simms is a historian of unusual range and ability.... His new book is nothing less than a history of Europe over the past 550 years.... Writing such a book is a colossally demanding task – the sort of challenge most sane historians would baulk at, unless they had a very clear idea of what they wanted to say. Luckily, knowing what he wants to say is one of Simms’s strengths. For this book is driven by two great master-ideas, and there is hardly a page in it where their presence is not felt. So, no matter how dense the details may be of kings, wars, treaties and governments, the reader always has the exhilarating sense of moving swiftly onwards.... Like all truly powerful and original works, this is a book worth disagreeing with. But above all it is a book worth reading."

The New Statesman
"[An] unrepentantly old-fashioned, lively and erudite history of Europe since 1453.... Ambitious in scope... Simms knows what he is talking about."

The Weekly Standard
"Sweeping and provocative."

BBC History Magazine
“Brilliantly successful….Simms has the breadth of knowledge and clarity of vision to make his case compelling. His book is also immensely entertaining as well as instructive. There are few pages not enlivened by sharp insight, telling vignette or memorable turn of phrase. In short, this is a great book and everyone interested in European history will want to read it.”

The Washington Times
“[A] sweeping, intelligent and enormously ambitious book.”

Paul Kennedy, J. Richardson Dilworth Professor of History, Yale University, and author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
Europe is a superb, sure-footed analysis of how this center of world civilization, technology, and warfare evolved since the fall of Constantinople in 1453. It is unabashedly political history, and the better for being so. Simms’s acumen and sharp opinions are a joy to read. This book will be appreciated both by the general reader and by history teachers everywhere.”

Timothy Snyder, author of Bloodlands
“World history is German history, and German history is world history.
This is the powerful case made by this gifted historian of Europe, whose expansive erudition revives the proud tradition of the history of geopolitics, and whose immanent moral sensibility reminds us that human choices made in Berlin (and London) today about the future of Europe might be decisive for the future of the world.”

Norman Davies, St. Antony’s College, Oxford and Jagiellonian University, Krakow
“European history comes in many guises, but Brendan Simms’s strategic and geopolitical approach provides a strong and lucid framework within which everything else fits into place. His emphasis on the centrality of Germany offsets more western-orientated accounts while also giving due prominence to Eastern Europe. Covering the whole of the modern period, this book is more than an excellent introduction; it’s a major interpretational achievement.”

William Shawcross
“This is a brilliant and beautifully written history. From the Holy Roman Empire to the Euro, Brendan Simms shows that one of the constant preoccupations of Europeans has always been the geography, the power and the needs of Germany. Europe is a work of extraordinary scholarship delivered with the lightest of touches. It will be essential, absorbing reading for anyone trying to understand both the past and the present of one of the most productive and most dangerous continents on earth.”

Publishers Weekly
“Bloody European statecraft and the interminable battle over Germany make the world go round in this magisterial history of modern international relations…. Simms chronicles this kaleidoscope of conflicts and coalitions with a graceful briskness that teases larger themes out of the welter of detail…. Simms’s vision of great-power rivalry as the motor of history offers compelling insights amid a grand narrative sweep.”

Kirkus
A smartly encapsulated 550 years of European history by a Cambridge historian reveals patterns and perils that continue to play out today…. Simms manages to be both specific and big-picture, dense and wonderfully digestible within one hefty volume…. An astute, comprehensive one-volume history of the “European project.”

Kirkus Reviews
A smartly encapsulated 550 years of European history by a Cambridge historian reveals patterns and perils that continue to play out today. Divided and competing or cohesive and cooperative? The history of Europe since 1450 reveals states struggling for imperial title, space and security, with Germany as strategic central leading the charge. Simms (Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire, 2008, etc.) takes a conceptual approach to the forging of modern European geopolitics, from the supremacy of the Holy Roman Empire at the heart of the European balance of power to the turbulent revolutions and ideological clashes of Central Europe that gave rise to Nazism and the definitive Cold War struggle between the Soviet Union and the West. Within each of the large-frame chapters, Simms manages to be both specific and big-picture, dense and wonderfully digestible within one hefty volume. He consistently pursues the notion that whoever held the imperial title--Charles V, Louis XIV, Frederick II of Prussia, Maria Theresa of Austria, the Hanoverians of Britain, etc.--held the balance of power in Europe. From the Seven Years' War, the decay of the ancient regime was hastened by the revolutionary convulsions within the American colonies and France, giving rise to crises across Europe in the state system and debates over which form of government should prevail--autocratic or democratic? From the struggles for emancipation in all forms during the 19th century to the bitter disputes over partitions in the 20th, questions of Europe's embrace of cohesion or retreat into sectarianism continue to command a sense of urgency. Simms handles them adeptly. An astute, comprehensive one-volume history of the "European project."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465013333
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 4/30/2013
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 690
  • Sales rank: 165,333
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 2.40 (d)

Meet the Author


Brendan Simms is a fellow at Peterhouse College, Cambridge and Professor in the History of International Relations at the Center for International Studies, University of Cambridge. The author of five books, including Three Victories and a Defeat and Unfinest Hour, which was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson prize.
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