History Derailed: Central and Eastern Europe in the Long Nineteenth Century

History Derailed: Central and Eastern Europe in the Long Nineteenth Century

History Derailed: Central and Eastern Europe in the Long Nineteenth Century

History Derailed: Central and Eastern Europe in the Long Nineteenth Century


There is probably no greater authority on the modern history of central and eastern Europe than Ivan Berend, whose previous work, Decades of Crisis, was hailed by critics as "masterful" and "the broadest synthesis of the modern social, economic, and cultural history of the region that we possess." Now, having brought together and illuminated this region's storm-tossed history in the twentieth century, Berend turns his attention to the equally turbulent period that preceded it. The "long" nineteenth century, extending up to World War I, contained the seeds of developments and crises that continue to haunt the region today.

The book begins with an overview of the main historical trends in the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries, during which time the region lost momentum and became the periphery, no longer in step with the rising West. It concludes with an account of the persisting authoritarian political structures and the failed modernization that paved the way for social and political revolts. The origins of twentieth-century extremism and its tragedies are plainly visible in this penetrating account.


As so many times in their modern history, the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe find themselves in an era of dramatic transformation. the caravan of nations in the region is in rapid movement once again. Their ideal and the pattern they follow is the West, just as it was in the nineteenth century. the historical parallel is plain to see. the nineteenth century was a crucial period in modern Central and Eastern European history and offers a key to a better understanding of the area’s stormy twentieth-century history and the major turmoil of the present. As Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret Jacob observe: “[W]hat historians do best is to make connections with the past in order to illuminate the problems of the present and the potential of the future” (Appleby et al. 1995, 9).

Although this volume stands as an entirely independent work, it can also be regarded as the first part of an informal trilogy on modern Central and Eastern Europe. During the 1990s, I published two volumes about the history of the region in the first and the second halves of the twentieth century (Berend 1996, 1998). To find and analyze the origins of the twentieth-century tragedy of the region, I turn in this volume to the “long” nineteenth century. This book, like the previous two, discusses the entire area between Germany and Russia and follows a topical organization, in contrast to the more conventional country-by-country type of examination. the analysis is highly comparative and seeks to capture the historical complexity of events—that is, the important interrelations of social, political, economic, and cultural facts and perceptions in a single and

1. My late friend György Ránki and I introduced this term in our The European Periphery and Industrialization, 1780–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982).

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