An Economist Best Book of the Year
“Sweeping . . . an ambitious synthesis . . . [Evans] writes with admirable narrative power and possesses a wonderful eye for local color . . . Fascinating.”—Stephen Schuker, The Wall Street Journal
From the bestselling author of The Third Reich at War, a masterly account of Europe in the age of its global hegemony; the latest volume in the Penguin History of Europe series
Richard J. Evans, bestselling historian of Nazi Germany, returns with a monumental new addition to the acclaimed Penguin History of Europe series, covering the period from the fall of Napoleon to the outbreak of World War I. Evans’s gripping narrative ranges across a century of social and national conflicts, from the revolutions of 1830 and 1848 to the unification of both Germany and Italy, from the Russo-Turkish wars to the Balkan upheavals that brought this era of relative peace and growing prosperity to an end. Among the great themes it discusses are the decline of religious belief and the rise of secular science and medicine, the journey of art, music, and literature from Romanticism to Modernism, the replacement of old-regime punishments by the modern prison, the end of aristocratic domination and the emergence of industrial society, and the dramatic struggle of feminists for women’s equality and emancipation. Uniting the era’s broad-ranging transformations was the pursuit of power in all segments of life, from the banker striving for economic power to the serf seeking to escape the power of his landlord, from the engineer asserting society’s power over the environment to the psychiatrist attempting to exert science’s power over human nature itself.
The first single-volume history of the century, this comprehensive and sweeping account gives the reader a magnificently human picture of Europe in the age when it dominated the rest of the globe.
Evans, a professor emeritus of history at Cambridge University who is best known for his three-volume history of Nazi Germany, enhances his reputation with this analysis of Europe during the century leading to the Great War. He concentrates on the now-unfashionable issue of power: who had it, who wanted it, and how it was achieved and retained. Evans doesn't simply focus on war and diplomacy he defines power broadly to include advances in medicine and technological sources of literal power, from steam to electricity. As the integrated developments of personal freedom, mastery over nature, and the rise of nationalism nurtured one another, Europe became the focus of "a process of globalization" in which capital, goods, people, and ideas flowed "from continent to continent." This was an "age of emotion" characterized by a passion for knowledge and the pursuit of happiness in an increasingly secularized and gendered environment. Governments and societies responded to the resulting "challenge of democracy" by barreling forward until the catastrophe of 1914, which "was a surprise to almost everyone" and perhaps should not have been. Evans demonstrates expertise of a broad spectrum of specialized sources and synthesizes his research into a work "designed to be read through from start to finish."