In this narrative of the history of Europe from the Westphalian peace settlement, until the battle of Waterloo, Tim Blanning manages to put in almost everything. He goes threw the state and development in every field conceivable such as agriculture, trade, religion, rulers, palaces, science, the Enlightenment, art (etc.) and then finishes the book of with a more chronological part describing the wars during the period. This specific era in history and the changes during it are many times forgotten. But it was during these years that the kings manage to wrestle the power out of the hands of the nobility, thereby making the nations more powerful. In the beginning of this era anyone was easily burned as a witch whereas in the end of this period any accuser would probably end up in jail themselves. The world saw also the birth of the artist that wasn't solemnly confined to wishes of a royal patron, but could instead make their living and sometimes fortune by selling their service to an increasing public. The book is interesting, witty and extremely well written. Mr Blanning seems to bee the kind of historian that wants the reader to start thinking. He gives other perspectives on things that are usually seen as matter of facts. Was for example the Holy Roman Empire such a preposterous creation if it managed to stay a float for a thousand years? Was the Industrial Revolution really a "revolution" or is that just a label attached retrospectively to an evolutionary process? It did wonders for this reader who more than occasionally had to pause to grasp the extent of what is written on the pages of this book. At the same time Tim Blanning manages to explain why the Bitts came out on top at the end after all the wars against France, and why this historical period marked the end of the glorious days for Spain, the Ottoman Empire and Sweden, and the beginning for Prussia and Russia. What this book doesn't give you is a total chronological order in what happened in what country, or simplified explanations over broad areas as materialist historians sometimes do. In my opinion that would have been impossible with the dept and extent of what Tim Blanning manages to cover. But he could have presented his references in other ways than just in the running text. One of the best history books I have ever had the pleasure of reading. A five out of five...
The Pursuit of Glory : The Five Revolutions that Made Modern Europe: 1648-1815
Arrives by Thursday, Aug 20
About This Item
"A triumphant success. [Blanning] brings knowledge, expertise, sound judgment and a colorful narrative style."--The Economist
The New York Times bestselling volume in the Penguin History of Europe series
Between the end of the Thirty Years' War and the Battle of Waterloo, Europe underwent an extraordinary transformatoin that saw five of the modern world's great revolutions--scientific, industrial, American, French, and romantic. In this much-admired addition to the monumental Penguin History of Europe series, Tim Blanning brilliantly investigates the forces that transformed Europe from a medieval society into a vigorous powerhose of the modern world. Blanning renders this vast subject immediate and absorbing by making fresh connections between the most mundane details of life and the major cultural, political, and technological transformations that birthed the modern age.
The Penguin History of Europe
Penguin Publishing Group
|Number of Pages|
The Pursuit of Glory
|Assembled Product Dimensions (L x W x H)|
8.44 x 5.55 x 1.53 Inches
In this narrative of t...
A lovely book. A relat...
A lovely book. A relatively light read but covers so many aspects of life in the long eighteenth century with just enough detail and constant revealing surveys. Blanning makes no attempt to simplify the period as he constantly makes it clear that it was as diverse as any other century, but in its own way. For instance while the Enlightenment was starting to undermine religion there were major religious developments which were far more important for most people than the enlightenment itself. He sets the background up over the major part of the book covering social, political, religious, cultural, geographic etc facets of life at the time - and not just life for the bewigged elite. The concision of his coverage of the political events of the period is quite brilliant - all the vital detail presented, all the important trends delineated yet all in a structured way. The title sums up his take on three of the 'great' rulers of the period, Louis XIV, Frederick the Great and Napoleon. They were chasing la gloire - the results were mixed for France and Prussia and often disastrous for other Europeans. This book is a brilliant coverage of its subject and is an interesting case of why I read history and I guess why I think one should. In itself it's a general introduction and/or overview of the long eighteenth century in Europe (mostly excluding the Ottoman lands) from 1648-1815 so from the Peace of Westphalia to Waterloo. I had come across politeness as a driving, revolutionary force in the late seventeenth century which was a new idea to me. It made Addison and Co so much more important and interesting. So I started to investigate a detailed study of it and failed. But I found one on the Enlightenment (slightly later period but related I suppose) which led me to this one on the same shelf. It had lots of good reviews. It's probably widely recommended and read as a neat intro for students (undergraduate or sixth form) of history so they have some idea of the overall framework within which other denser, more detailed books operate. For this it's excellent. Blanning covers every aspect of life, thought and politics in a lively style and without reducing himself to headlines. He definitely shows you the bigger picture. The eighteenth century was the age of enlightenment? For some certainly but it was also the age of Methodism, Pietism and Jansenism, as well as slavery and serfdom. Many more religious books were published than anti-religious ones. The age of French dominance? Well certainly up to a point with the French language in widespread use amongst the elite - but not in England. Some French art dominated in some areas with a Versailles being built in Naples, for example, but elsewhere Italian styles would dominate. And what do you make of the signature of Prince Eugene - Eugenio von Savoie? Surely that sums up the multinational, multicultural aspects of life the further east in Europe you went. The Industrial Revolution? Well more of that anon but it's definitely a "Yes, but ..." book. In short it shows you the bigger picture without painting every cat grey. It's certainly good to have an overview to refresh what I know about European history and add the occasional new nugget. I have never read a better summary narrative of the military, diplomatic and political events of the period. Blanning is unpitying in his analysis (Blenheim and Waterloo not that important in the long scheme of things, other (non-British battles) highly significant). Did the British Industrial Revolution actually come to dominate because the French were mired in bankruptcy and war? One tends, this side of the Channel, to view the eighteenth century as elegant, bewigged enlightenment gentlemen if one is not careful. Blanning makes it very evident that it was a bloodthirsty, murderous age over much of Europe suffering from la gloire of Louis XIV, Frederick the Great and Napoleon and, if it comes to that, Britain's far from always benign interference. You then get equally brilliant summaries of the cultural, sexual, social, religion, courts etc. How the Prussian rulers converted the Junkers into a military asset while the Russian tsars had a confused relationship with their aristocracy. The changes in religion are clarified whereby the majority of the population as far as we can tell were deeply religious, the parish clergy were admired, the higher clergy were aristocratic placeholders in various ways. The enlightened wanted to cut away the superstitions of popular religion in Catholic when that is what the populace actually liked. In short for a quick overview of the period it's excellent.
This was a really well...
This was a really well written and entertaining book. However, the author presupposes a lot of prior knowledge which I sadly lacked, making some of the material a bit challenging - probably not the best choice of read for the inexperienced but I have learned a great deal from reading it. There is a good chance that I'll do so again. I was a bit disappointed by the balance of the content. I felt there is a disproportionate ammount of text devoted to the social history of the period and too little on the meaty political and military events, e.g the wars of the French revolution. I also thought that given that the book does not flow in strict chronological order then it would have really benefited from the inclusion of a simple summary chapter or timeline - something I think newbies to this period of European history would find very useful. That said, I still highly recommend it to anyone.
A broad book with a cu...
A broad book with a curious structure: its built around topics (such as transportation, or palaces, or art) and discusses their status and evolution throughout the period from roughly 1650 to 1815. The result is a set of separate pieces; the job of the reader here is to assemble them, and it's not easy. The selection of topics seems somewhat whimsical. For instance, there is a full chapter on hunting and one on palaces and gardens, yet there is almost nothing about overseas expansionism and imperialism, almost nothing on slavery. Perhaps the best way to approach this book is to first browse it to get an idea of its topics, and then to use it as a reference for the subject of one's interest.
I was looking forward ...
I was looking forward to cracking this open as it covers a period that informal readers of history (like me) don't have a lot of familiarity with. Unfortunately, while adequate, the book did not dazzle me as I had hoped. Partly, I think, this is a problem of scope. A book that covers the period from the end of the Reformation to the end of the Napoleonic Wars has an awful lot of ground to cover - the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment, the effects of the American and French revolutions, etc. Furthermore, that territory differs vastly over the course of two centuries. But the book also has a tendency to rely too heavily on lists of information or names when addressing a specific point, and the organization of the book fails to provide a reader with an easy to follow framework to help understand the reams of information being thrown out. It would have helped somewhat, I think, to put the section on war and peace, which follows a straightforward chronology, at the beginning of the book instead of the end, to give the reader a reference point for the other chapters. In the end, the book adequately covers its subject, but I was hoping for much more.
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