THE SCOPE OF MODERN EUROPEAN POLITICS
The history of European political thought from the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 presents historians with a daunting task, given the intersecting political events, ideological motivations, and national differences that must be considered. Despite these difficulties, however, we have attempted throughout this work to follow clear thematic lines regarding ideas on forms of government and the problems presented by new economic, social, and political developments. We have aimed especially at achieving clarity in presenting the solutions that political thinkers elaborated in order to resolve and conciliate issues that appeared at times mutually contradictory. Given the great scope and complexity of the topic, we make no pretense of having provided anything more than a clear introduction that will serve to familiarize students with the basic European political ideas that circulated in Europe during the past two centuries and with the theoretical problems that a rapidly modernizing society presented to political observers. We believe that, with the passage of time, it becomes increasingly imperative for students of the modern world to understand how and why certain tendencies in politics emerged if they are to understand the present. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, the tendency is to emphasize historical periods that are ever closer to the present, a trend in which ideas are abstracted from their context, leaving people less equipped to comprehend rapidly unfolding developments. This book, we hope, will provide a solid foundation for anyone wishing to gain a more complete understanding of particular thinkers or movements and to build on that knowledge.
In political thought, as in so many other fields, the period known as the Enlightenment (roughly, the eighteenth century) set the tone for the modern world. The French Baron de Montesquieu, for example, in his most