The Old European Order, 1660-1800

The Old European Order, 1660-1800

The Old European Order, 1660-1800

The Old European Order, 1660-1800


This survey of European history covers a period of one and a half centuries which witnessed the beginnings of the contemporary world. In his account of the economic, social, intellectual, and governmental structure and development of pre-revolutionary Europe, Doyle stresses throughout the importance of economic and social trends, and places emphasis on the analysis of the structure of society as well as the narration of events. He shows how the contradictions of the old order contributed to a crisis which affected several of the major states in the late eighteenth century, when the growth of governmental power led to a series of clashes between governments and governing classes. Out of these conflicts, particularly in France, arose a revolutionary crisis. The nature of this crisis, and the impact of the change it produced, are examined in detail in the final section of the book. For this second edition, Doyle has revised the text of the book, and comprehensively updated the Bibliography.


Nobody who attempts to write a survey of an immense period of history can expect to emerge unscathed; and if what follows fails to stand on its own merits, no amount of preliminary justification will save it. Nevertheless, one aspect perhaps needs some explanation, and this is the absence of any section on literature and the arts. No account of this period could be truly comprehensive without some treatment of its brilliant aesthetic achievements; but to include an adequate account of them would add enormously to a text that is already too long. Nor could I be sure of my own competence in the various fields I should need to cover. Without this, and without illustrations, any survey of the arts would be only too likely to become a meaningless list of names and titles which would tell the reader very little worth knowing. Rather than overburden him so pointlessly, I have preferred to concentrate on matters I feel happier with. The most I can hope is that some readers will be spurred by what they read here to explore the aesthetic side of the period with other authors whose expertise I could never emulate.

I am enormously indebted to the researches of countless scholars on whom I have relied for information and ideas. I hope that most of them would not be too horrified by the use I have made of their work. I am particularly grateful to John Roberts for offering me the chance to write the book, for his helpful and indulgent editing, and for his patience in waiting for me to finish. Utrick Casebourne, who first began criticizing my work when we were undergraduates together, has kindly read through the whole text and made many valuable suggestions for its improvement.

This is a York book. It has occupied most of my vacations and research terms since I arrived here, it was written in the wonderfully congenial surroundings of the J.B. Morrell library, and most of its ideas were formulated in the stimulating atmosphere of the History Department, where my historical education really began. I have also been writing it as long as I have been married. My wife has typed it, read it, criticized it, cursed it, and sometimes even praised it. This, and so much else, makes it her book too.

York, August 1977 W. D.

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