The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815by Tim Blanning, David Cannadine
In 1648, Europe was essentially a medieval society. By 1815, it was the powerhouse of the modern world. In exuberant prose, Tim Blanning investigates 'the very hinge of European history' (The New York Times) between the end of the Thirty Y ears? War and the Battle of Waterloo that witnessed five of the modern world's great revolutions: scientific,/i>… See more details below
In 1648, Europe was essentially a medieval society. By 1815, it was the powerhouse of the modern world. In exuberant prose, Tim Blanning investigates 'the very hinge of European history' (The New York Times) between the end of the Thirty Y ears? War and the Battle of Waterloo that witnessed five of the modern world's great revolutions: scientific, industrial, American, French, and romantic. Blanning renders this vast subject digestible and absorbing by making fresh connections between the most mundane details of life and the major cultural, political, and technological transformations that birthed the modern age.
The New York Times
This new volume in the Penguin History of Europe series is a wonderful achievement, particularly so considering the mammoth amount of specialist material that required synthesizing into digestible portions for general consumption. Blanning, professor of modern history at the University of Cambridge, has performed the miracle of balancing and blending traditional political and diplomatic accounts with the newer fields of social, economic and intellectual history. A prime example of this is the author's treatment of the impact of the new "public sphere." As people discoursed through coffeehouses, Masonic organizations or periodicals, "a new source of authority emerged to challenge the opinion-makers of the old regime: public opinion." Countries where this public sphere was left free, as in Britain or the Dutch Republic, tended to be more politically stable than, say, France, where suppression ended in bloody revolution. Blanning narrates the story of Europe from the end of the Thirty Years' War to the end of the Napoleonic wars, when secularization and the primacy of state sovereignty were recognized as the key attributes of the coming era. What the Europeans would eventually get was the secular, martial religion of nationalism. But this is the subject for a subsequent volume—which will be hard-pressed to match this splendid one. (June 4)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Blanning (modern history, Cambridge) gives us a broad approach to European history, covering not only the traditional topics of war, diplomacy, and kings but also other interesting issues, such as transportation, marriage, law, and recreation. Since he writes well, making complex issues understandable and ably conveying what it was like to live during these epochs, this book will be a good resource for undergraduates and interested lay readers. Graduate students likewise will find Blanning's extensive discussions of historiography rewarding. The book does, however, suffer from a little "high history" during which the focus on everyday life becomes hard to find. For example, when Banning covers the Napoleonic Wars, he mentions little of how ordinary people were affected. He does, however, indicate the extent and depth of material confronting a historian (e.g., with a suggested reading section) and overall succeeds in conveying both social topics and the topics of traditional history. Recommended for larger public and all academic libraries.
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History buffs, particularly those interested in modern Europe, will find this the most comprehensive book of its kind published in the past ten years. Especially admirable are the sections on communication, transportation, agriculture, and politics of Central Europe, a labyrinthine subject Blanning somehow makes lucid. Not at all a rehash of the Reign of Terror or great naval battles of the Anglo-Dutch War, or whatever, this is a bird's eye view, with both the forests and the trees. Indispensable for a amatuer or professional historian's library.
OK--Europe from 1648 to 1815: One of the most significant developments during this period was the Emancipation of the Jews. The German pricipalities, the Hapsburg Empire followed the lead of France's Napoleon in beginning to permit their Jewish citizens to: (1) live outside of a specially designated Ghetto, (2) testify in a Court of Law, (3) Bring an action in a Court, (4) and own property. Not all the political units passed these tolerance patents at the same time, but by 1815 many areas had eliminated at least some of political disenfranchisements of the Jews. Not one word about this in Blanning's entire book? In the index, "Jews" gets four references, all of which are mere asides, in discussing other matters. I was reminded of how history used to be written in the 1950s, when all minority racial and ethnic groups were ignored. Geoffrey Barraclough's The Origins of Modern Germany, which was a standard text on medieval German history for at least twenty years, surveying Germany from AD 800 to about 1600, does not mention Jews once. When I read the book 25 years ago, I was astonished. But, that was how history was written; dismissal and ignorance of Jewish people; not anti-Semitism was the root cause. But in 2012, there is no excuse whatsoever for any respected scholar to turn out a text like this, even with the constraints of a reasonable survey volume. A few paragraphs here and there might have been sufficient, if they were well-drafted. In contrast, look at Harvard's David Blackbourn's The Long Nineteenth Century, a history of Germany. It devotes a few pages to the Jews a number of times, in a number of contexts. While I do not necessarily question Prof. Blanning's scholarly credentials, this represents a major lacuna, and I wonder how many others the book may contain. Does the book adequately cover the liberation of Hungary from the Ottoman Muslims? This is a most significant event during this period, as the threat to European Christendom was repelled, and the Siege of Vienna in 1683. Very disappointing, unfortunately. Allen Roth