A smartly encapsulated 550 years of European history by a Cambridge historian reveals patterns and perils that continue to play out today.
Divided and competing or cohesive and cooperative? The history of Europe since 1450 reveals states struggling for imperial title, space and security, with Germany as strategic central leading the charge. Simms (Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire, 2008, etc.) takes a conceptual approach to the forging of modern European geopolitics, from the supremacy of the Holy Roman Empire at the heart of the European balance of power to the turbulent revolutions and ideological clashes of Central Europe that gave rise to Nazism and the definitive Cold War struggle between the Soviet Union and the West. Within each of the large-frame chapters, Simms manages to be both specific and big-picture, dense and wonderfully digestible within one hefty volume. He consistently pursues the notion that whoever held the imperial title—Charles V, Louis XIV, Frederick II of Prussia, Maria Theresa of Austria, the Hanoverians of Britain, etc.—held the balance of power in Europe. From the Seven Years’ War, the decay of the ancient regime was hastened by the revolutionary convulsions within the American colonies and France, giving rise to crises across Europe in the state system and debates over which form of government should prevail—autocratic or democratic? From the struggles for emancipation in all forms during the 19th century to the bitter disputes over partitions in the 20th, questions of Europe’s embrace of cohesion or retreat into sectarianism continue to command a sense of urgency. Simms handles them adeptly.
An astute, comprehensive one-volume history of the “European project.”