Any one who seeks to understand the stirring period in which we are now living becomes quickly aware that he must first know the history of the French Revolution, a movement that inaugurated a new era, not only for France but for the world. The years from 1789 to 1815, the years of the Revolution and of Napoleon, effected one of the greatest and most difficult transitions of which history bears record, and to gain any proper sense of its significance one must have some glimpse of the background, some conception of what Europe was like in 1789. That background can only be sketched here in a few broad strokes, far from adequate to a satisfactory appreciation, but at least indicating the point of departure.
What was Europe in 1789? One thing, at least, it was not: it was not a unity. There were states of every size and shape and with every form of government. The States of the Church were theocratic; capricious and cruel despotism . . .
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