A 100-year survey of European history that moves by transnational themes emphasizing “power”—over industrialization, class, selfhood, wages, and nature.
In this sweeping survey, accomplished British historian Evans (Emeritus, History/Univ. of Cambridge; The Third Reich in History and Memory, 2015, etc.), a winner of the Wolfson History Prize, does not neglect the convulsive changes that occurred among the nonelite across Europe. His forte is his emphasis on how the Republican ideals ignited by the French Revolution, promulgated and corrupted by Napoleon and severely suppressed in many places afterward, never died among a growing class of proletariat and “petty bourgeoisie” (e.g., in France) who were “dissatisfied with the authoritarian policies of the Restoration.” While the European powers were reorganizing after the Congress of Vienna, the revolutionary genie was out of the bottle, as evidenced by the subsequent Decembrist uprising in Russia, the Polish officers’ insurrection, the movement for Greek independence, and the July Revolution of 1830, among others, all creating ramifications that would explode by midcentury. With the emancipation of the serfs—Alexander II’s rationale was that it was “better to abolish serfdom from above, than to wait until the serfs begin to liberate themselves from below”—many faced new economic hardships (e.g., the decline of the sharecropping system) leading to peasant revolts and famine since most people lived on the land and depended on it for survival. Pauperism increased (see: the Irish famine) and, with the conquering of “rail, steam, and speed,” the European working class rose as well. With the advent of the “second Industrial Revolution,” the British imperial lead declined, and the German economy took center stage. With the urbanization of Europe, Evans meticulously follows the accompanying developments in culture—in literature (Charles Dickens’ novels), the adoption of the metric system, the Dreyfus Affair, and the general “shrinkage of space.”
An immensely readable work that considers incremental continental developments up to the outbreak of war in 1914.