From Napoleon to Stalin: Comments on European History

From Napoleon to Stalin: Comments on European History

From Napoleon to Stalin: Comments on European History

From Napoleon to Stalin: Comments on European History

Excerpt

The pieces collected here span the century and a half from the French Revolution to the present day. For the most part I did not choose the subjects; they chose me. What I offer are echoes from the past, called forth by a centennial occasion or by the publication of some book of memoirs. All the same there is an underlying theme. It is the theme which has run through European history since the French Revolution -- the search for stability in an unstable world. The great revolution destroyed tradition as the basis for society; ever since men have been seeking for something to take its place. Napoleon was an early attempt at a solution -- at once continuing the revolution and ending it, embodying French Nationalism and yet attempting to set up a single European State. Stalin, at the end of the period, shows the same contrast -- the revolutionary who has become the man of authority or, in less personal terms, the revolution which has itself become a tradition and a dogma. For Marxism has carried to an extreme the rationalism of the French Revolution; yet (as the personal experience of the final essay shows) will no longer tolerate the free play of intellect.

The French Revolution challenged the established social order; equally it upset the established order of states. Though the traditional Balance of Power proved strong enough to defeat Napoleon, it was itself sapped from within by the rise of Nationalism, especially of German Nationalism. This is a curious outcome. The defenders of the old order, such as Gentz, supposed that their main concern would be "the French problem." Instead we have had "the German problem" on our hands for half a century and, but for Bismarck, would have had it even earlier. France, originator of the upheaval, has become the most defensive of the Great Powers, a development perhaps exaggerated here by the accidental concentration on the period immediately before 1939. The age of German power may now be over and the role of tyrant of Europe may . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.