Focusing on Europe in the 1840s as the crucible of the modern world, Blum's lively, opinionated, engrossing chronicle is a tour de force of popular exposition. He brings to life a decade that ushered in the modern welfare state, the population explosion, photography, the telegraph and militant workers' movements culminating in revolutions that swept from Paris to Austria, Prussia and Italy in 1848. In Britain, the upper classes developed a social conscience, a new awareness of the plight of the poor. Under Czar Nicholas I's repressive autocracy, a ``golden age of Russian culture'' paradoxically flourished, nurturing Dostoyevski, Turgenev, Gogol. In the aftermath of revolution, the French middle classes helped crush workers' and peasants' dreams, creating an abyss between the classes that still characterizes modern France. Former chair of Princeton's history department, Blum peoples his canvas with fiery Irish agitator Daniel O'Connell, Polish romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz, physicist Michael Faraday, epileptic Austrian Emperor Ferdinand and many more. (Feb.)
In the ample literature on European history, the beginnings of the modern era have received less attention than more recent times. Yet the seeds of later events may be found in the changes in communications, politics, philosophy, demographics, economics, and social structure that began in the 1840s. The author of this book, the former chair of Princeton University's history department and author of several scholarly books on European history, has written a clear and readable synthesis of the history of these changes as they affected the Great Powers of the time--Great Britain, France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia. This is traditional social history filling a need for such work on this period. Essential for libraries serving college-level students in European history and useful for all libraries serving serious readers interested in the subject.-- Barbara Walden, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis
Esteemed historian Blum (1903-1993) chronicles a decade in which extraordinary change was sought in every sphere of life. He describes the revolution in communications and transportation, social consciousness, science, the arts, and education; and he delves into the lives of leading figures throughout Europe, linking them to significant events that marked the beginning of the modern age. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
"Synthesis" is an example of the numerous intellectual terms Blum explains: for instance, Marx transformed Hegel's idee fixe into the class struggle, which in turn provides one explanation for the times' bewildering and explosive economic change. Other social outlooks, such as Comte's positivism (which inspired sociology) or philanthropy jostled with each other, but in Blum's view the most influential notion over the long trend was the ascendancy of realism over romanticism. This occurred not only in the arts and history but also in politics, exemplified by the canny Cavour's success in uniting Italy after the romantic nationalist Mazzini proved a complete failure. Above all, this was an era of generational turnover, during which the victors over Napoleon gave way to youths and bourgeoisie impatient with the reactionaries symbolized by Austria's Metternich. The course of change varied in Britain, France, the German states, and Russia, and Blum devotes a political chapter to each, detailing the events that exploded in the revolutions of 1848. This fine overview, impressive for its catholicity of subjects, nicely caps a respected historian's career.