Themes in Modern European History, 1830-90

Themes in Modern European History, 1830-90

Themes in Modern European History, 1830-90

Themes in Modern European History, 1830-90

Synopsis

Providing a series of lively essays which reflect the skills that historians have to master when challenged by problems of evidence, interpretation, and presentation, this important new text covers the topics of France, Germany, Italy, Austria, and Russia, as well as analyzing the themes of political thought, cultural trends, the economy and warfare, international relations and imperialism.Six distinguished scholars, all of whom are regularly involved in student teaching, provide an authoritative student guide to the main contours of nineteenth-century European history when the continent's standing was at its highest and its influence spanned the globe.

Excerpt

What was the nineteenth century? a simple question perhaps. Was it just a hundred-year cycle, or was it a period with some identifiable unity? If the latter, where do we find a guide? Do we look to politics, economics, art, or somewhere else? Or do we seek a combination of characteristics which make a meaningful configuration? There are indeed several nineteenth centuries. the hundred-year stretch from 1800 onwards makes more sense than many historians think, for it began with Napoleon’s coup d’état on 18 Brumaire 1799, when drums began to roll all over Europe, and lasted till the advent of Weltpolitik at the century’s close, as grey German ships slipped into the sea. in each case the military challenge burnt out, but left amongst the ash enduring strife, vast political change and accelerating innovation. Napoleon Bonaparte and William ii failed to establish lasting dominion, but the first, by spreading the residue of the French Revolution, helped to unify and strengthen Europe, and the Kaiser’s technology helped to forge one world out of several continents. So the statistician’s century (1800-1900) is a unit, begun and terminated by epochal events. But there are two other nineteenth centuries. One began in 1789 and ended in 1918, for the onset of revolution in France introduced an element of hope and a dynamic force connected with it that Europe had never hitherto seen on such a scale. This optimism was sustained in various forms until 1918, when it collapsed in a cataclysm of defeat and sickness, leaving a desert of lasting despair and uncertainty, for even the victors were prostrate. the hope born of desperation placed in Woodrow Wilson soon vanished. This is the ‘long century’, one with several distinct phases but nevertheless a period with clearly visible contours. There is also a ‘short century’, the subject of this book. It stretches from 1830 to 1890—that period which is quintessentially the nineteenth century. It has faint traces of the old regime and few hints of what was to come in our day.

With the death of Goethe in 1832 the classicism of the Enlightenment was interred. Romanticism was in full bloom but it already began to look less to the past and the eternal, and

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