A magnificent and timely examination of an age of fear, subversion, suppression and espionage, Adam Zamoyski explores the attempts of the governments of Europe to police the world in a struggle against obscure forces, seemingly dedicated to the overthrow of civilisation.
The French Revolution and the blood-curdling violence it engendered terrified the ruling and propertied classes of Europe. Unable to grasp how such horrors could have come about, many concluded that it was the result of a devilish conspiracy hatched by Freemasons inspired by the ideas of the Enlightenment with the aim of overthrowing the entire social order, along with the legal and religious principles it stood on. Others traced it back to the Reformation or the Knights Templar and ascribed even more sinister aims to it.
Faced by this apparently occult threat, they resorted to repression on an unprecedented scale, expanding police and spy networks in the process. Napoleon managed to contain the revolutionary elements in France and those parts of Europe he controlled, but while many welcomed this, others saw in him no more than the spawn of the Revolution, propagating its doctrines by other means. After his defeat at Waterloo in 1815, his victors united to maintain the old order, suppress of all opposition, and ferret out of the conspirators whom they believed to be plotting mayhem and murder in the shadows.
In this ground-breaking study best-selling historian Adam Zamoyski exposes their pusillanimous yet cynical recourse to the police spy and the bayonet, which only intensified their own fears and pushed ordinary people towards subversion, building up the pressure of opposition to their rule.
When it came, with the revolutions of 1848, the dreaded cataclysm revealed their fears to have been groundless; the masses stirred into revolt by hunger and oppressive living conditions were leaderless and easily pacified. There never had been any conspiracy. But the police were there to stay, and the paradigm of an order threatened by dark forces is also still with us today. This compelling history, occasionally chilling and often hilarious, tells how the modern state evolved through the expansion of its organs of control, and holds urgent lessons for today.
‘Vivid, terrifying and often quite funny … an interesting take on 1848 … this superbly drawn story is full of painful allegories’ The Times
‘Splendidly provocative … perceptive and often amusing … full of arresting details and sharp asides … Adam Zamoyski writes like a dancer at a court ball: gracious, patrician, masterful, sure-footed … Phantom Terror is a thumping great pleasure to read … history at its best’ Spectator
‘Scintillating and original’ Economist
‘We know the Napoleonic era well, but the Decades after Napoleon’s fall are often neglected. Adam Zamoyski covers those years, showing how fear of revolution caused the autocrats of Europe to repress freedom on an unprecedented scale’ Simon Sebag Montefiore, Mail on Sunday
About the author
Adam Zamoyski was born in New York, was educated at Oxford, and lives in London. A full-time writer, his books include ‘Paderewski’, ‘The Last King of Poland’,‘1812: Napoleon’s Fatal March on Moscow’, which was a Sunday Times bestseller, ‘Rites of Peace: The Fall of Napoleon and the Congress of Vienna’, ‘Warsaw 1920’ and ‘Chopin’. He is married to the painter Emma Sergeant.
In the first days of the French Revolution, minor nobles and the French lower classes hoped for greater liberties. Instead, as Zamoyski (Warsaw 1920) reveals in this meticulous, thorough account, the revolution's devolution into a bloodbath and the subsequent rise and fall of Corsican upstart Napoleon created paranoia among monarchs, leading to the evolution of narrowly focused police and agents provocateurs (who became models for state agents in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union). Zamoyski demonstrates how this atmosphere enveloped not only France, but much of Europe, leading to increased restrictions and harsh punishments, notably for students and foreigners. In the midst of the overarching theme of progressive (also called liberal or radical) movements and their opponents, key figures such as Wellington, Napoleon, Czar Alexander, and the Bourbon heirs pale beside the grand schemer and architect of the multicountry alliance: Austrian foreign minister Klemens von Metternich. It's a dense but stimulating work; Zamoyski takes an infamous 18th-century class struggle and painstakingly shows how the resulting suppression manifested itself through sophisticated spy networks and Germany's heightened nationalism, as well as a chasm between the economic and social classes that persists today. Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Assoc.