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Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, 1453 to the Present Paperback – 27 Mar 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (27 Mar 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141037172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141037172
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 15,452 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Brendan Simms is a historian of unusual range and ability ... this book is driven by two great master-ideas, and there is hardly a page in it where their presence is not felt ... the reader always has the exhilarating sense of moving swiftly onwards, in a kind of turbocharged Rolls-Royce of historical argumentation ... truly powerful and original (Noel Malcolm Telegraph)

Ought to sit on the desk of every politician, pundit and policy wonk ... [Simms] marshals the great events ... with a breath-stopping assurance. Panoramic, multi-faceted ... sweeping, well-paced narrative ... awesome command. This is top-down European history, diplomatic and political, seen from the soaring eagle's eye. But what an eagle; and what an eye (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

Europe is a superb, sure-footed analysis of how this center of world civilization, technology, and warfare evolved since the fall of Constantinople in 1453. It is unabashedly political history, and the better for being so. Simms's acumen and sharp opinions are a joy to read. This book will be appreciated both by the general reader, and by history teachers everywhere (Paul Kennedy)

Brendan Simms's new history [is] especially timely. He has, in effect, dropped a big stone into the European pond and stood back to watch the ripples spread ... Compelling and provocative ... This is sweeping history, told with verve and panache, and it is all the more refreshing for that (Economist)

This is a brilliant and beautifully written history. From the Holy Roman Empire to the Euro, Brendan Simms shows that one of the constant preoccupations of Europeans has always been the geography, the power and the needs of Germany. Europe is a work of extraordinary scholarship delivered with the lightest of touches. It will be essential, absorbing reading for anyone trying to understand both the past and the present of one of the most productive and most dangerous continents on earth (William Shawcross)

A stimulating, impressive history that starts with the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 and extends to the present day ... perspicacious and flexible ... an excellent read and its insights into the grand themes of European history are penetrating and lucidly argued (Tony Barber Financial Times)

Unrepentantly old-fashioned, lively and erudite ... The book is centrally concerned, rightly, with Germany, which Simms knows at first hand. Its great strength is that you are always reminded that European countries did not grow autonomously ... Europe is very ambitious in scope ... The references are prodigious, multilingual and extremely useful ... Simms knows what he is talking about (Norman Stone New Statesman)

How do you write a history of Europe ... without making it seem like a list of dates? The answer of Brendan Simms in his new book is both simple and brilliantly successful: take a strong thesis and argue it through from start to finish ... Simms has the breadth of knowledge and clarity of vision to make his case compelling. His book is also immensely entertaining as well as instructive. There are few pages not enlivened by sharp insight, telling vignette or memorable turn of phrase. In short, this is a great book and everyone interested in European history will want to read it (Tim Blanning BBC History Magazine)

There is nothing in the recent literature to match it ... Not only has Simms bitten off a huge chunk of history, he has mastered it with style and an awe-inspiring command of the literature ... [a] Herculean feat of synthesis (Josef Joffe Prospect)

Exciting ... In [Simms's] survey of European power politics through six centuries and more, he dissects the economic, social, administrative and religious aspects of the "domestic" life of the states involved ... Simms's eye for the telling detail is shown ... [his] majestic prose flows impressively ... lucid and perceptive (Times Higher Education)

[An] encyclopaedic, ambitious and fluent history of Europe ... [like] a great game of chess, except that as well as black and white pieces there are green, blue, orange and purple ones all moving around a multidimensional board. Place names swirl, battles are won and lost, and the pieces are reordered ... Inevitably readers will be drawn to Simms's fascinating picture of the origins of the European Union ... thoughtful and stimulating (David Abulafia Standpoint)

A tour de force ... With phenomenal surefootedness, [Simms] picks out the patterns in what might otherwise appear a trackless waste of victories, defeats, treaties and coalitions, extracting from them provocative lessons for Europe's present and future. Big ideas animate the book ... This fascinating book deserves a wide readership. Even those who do not share Simms's fears and hopes for the European Union will be enthralled by the brilliance of his analysis and the dizzying breadth of his vision (Christopher Clark Mail on Sunday)

Prodigious ... in its pages whole empires rise and fall ... Europe draws the reader forward with its grand epic of shifting alliances, clashing armies and ambitious statecraft. Mr. Simms ... is a skilled writer with a rare gift for compressed analysis. His focus on the military and diplomatic arc of European history lends his book a strong narrative line and thematic coherence (Jeffrey Collins Wall Street Journal)

European history comes in many guises, but Brendan Simms's strategic and geopolitical approach provides a strong and lucid framework within which everything else fits into place. His emphasis on the centrality of Germany offsets more western-orientated accounts while also giving due prominence to Eastern Europe. Covering the whole of the modern period, this book is more than an excellent introduction; it's a major interpretational achievement (Norman Davies)

World history is German history, and German history is world history. This is the powerful case made by this gifted historian of Europe, whose expansive erudition revives the proud tradition of the history of geopolitics, and whose immanent moral sensibility reminds us that human choices made in Berlin (and London) today about the future of Europe might be decisive for the future of the world (Timothy Snyder (author of Bloodlands))

A tremendous feat ... Simms's pages teem with some of the greatest characters in European history (Dominic Sandbrook Sunday Times)

Remarkably, such a large and complex book ... offers a very straightforward argument and thesis ... The more familiar the story, the more arresting is Simms's repositioning of it ... This isn't simply academic history but an account of how we came to be, albeit ambivalently and conflictedly, involved in a continental narrative that is still unfolding (Sunday Herald)

About the Author

Brendan Simms is Professor of the History of International Relations at the University of Cambridge. His major books include Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia (shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize) and Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Dr Barry Clayton TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 18 April 2013
Format: Hardcover
To write a history of Europe since 1500 is a daunting task. Brendan Simms has done so in a masterly fashion. Brilliantly researched with excellent maps this will be the standard work for many a year. It is nice also to see a book with an excellent index, quite rare these days. The bibliography is extensive and up-to-date.

Brendan is a Cambridge Professor and the author of the magnificent work on the Bosnian disaster: 'Unfinest Hour'. This book will enhance his reputation even more among History scholars.

He stresses, as he did in his book:'Three Victories and a Defeat', that the history of England is intimately bound up with the history of Europe. The destiny of England, and later Great Britain, was decided by events in Europe, never has this been more true than in 2013.

It is very refreshing to read a work by a historian who emphasises the importance of geopolitics. Other excellent books on the history of Europe such as that by Norman Davies tend to downplay the role that geography played, and still does, in
political and military affairs. For this reason it is shameful that history at school and university can be studied, and usually is, without studying at the same time Geography. An atlas ought to be at every history student's elbow.

Professor Simms demonstrates how the issues that have faced Europeans, particularly security issues, have remained very constant over the centuries.He emphasises the major role that Germany has played in Europe's history, liking it to a 'semi-conductor' in the European balance between, for example, freedom and authority. As he says, his book is essentially about the 'immediacy of the past'.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Khusro on 29 April 2013
Format: Hardcover
1. The book's ambition is Alexandrian in scope and to a limited degree Mr Simms does manage to pull it off.

2. The basic hypothesis, that the geographical space that is synonymous with Germany is the pivot of history is well argued for the most part but does begin to look less convincing when Mr Simms gets down to a discussion of current developments- the chapter on democracies and perhaps the chapter on partitions as well. There is no questioning the importance of Germany in 20th century history, and a concern about its role in 21st century, but there have been ideological struggles not all of which can realistically be seen as owed to Germany, and we have yet to grasp the significance of the geography that is Asia-Pacific- for Europe and for the larger world. Because Amazon insists on this crazy ranking by stars, owed perhaps its American origins, I would give the book three stars in this department.

3. As a very readable and comprensible account of the "going-ons" in Europe since 1453 in some six hundred pages, the book would rank high. There are minor errors of fact, and in some instances also rather nuanced interpretations and opinions; tending to enhance the book's "right of the centre" slant I would say. These shortcomings have to be excused if the constraints of time taken to do the work, the length of the period covered, and the number of pages to which the narrative needs to be restricted, are taken into consideration. In this area the book approaches the five star category.

4. In asking questions rather than offering a prognosis as the conclusions, Mr Simms, I would say, has "short-changed" the reader. This is at best three star stuff; a reasonably intelligent reader would already be aware of these "questions".
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Nick Antill on 13 May 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a masterpiece of compression and, because it has a narrow focus on international relations, could be and has been written as a compelling chronological narrative. Of its two main arguments, the centrality of Germany is the more convincing. It is only occasionally that bringing everything back to the Holy Roman Empire seems a bit forced. Seeing everything through the prism of international affairs is less successful. The Parliamentary side in the English Civil War would have been surprised to hear that they were mainly fighting the King to protect Protestants in Germany, and it really is not true that the Great Depression of the 1930s was caused by European international affairs, rather than the other way round. But despite these quibbles it is a highly readable and very interesting book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By reader 451 TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 18 Sep 2013
Format: Hardcover
What does the Euro crisis have in common with the fall of Constantinople of 1453? Brendan Simms manages to weave a thread from one to the other, and it is unrolled from the skein that has been Germany's central place within Europe. For reasons to do with geography, population, and in the early-modern the prestige of the Holy Roman Emperor, the control of German has dominated European state relations, he argues. And because this was the era of European supremacy, it has been the central issue of international diplomacy throughout. Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy provides a whirlwind tour of European and indeed world political history for the last five hundred years. It is almost awe-inspiring in breadth and of such clarity that, while of academic calibre, it should appeal to all readers whatever knowledge gaps they feel they may have in this or that period. Providing equal space to the eighteenth-century rises of Prussia and Russia in the succession struggles, to the German and Italian unifications, and to WWII, it is also filled with spicy detail about its protagonists and the twists and accidents of countless greater and lesser crises.

This is state-centred history, and it focuses on diplomatic positioning and bargaining, wars, and economic rivalry. The book is unashamedly of the 'primacy of foreign policy' school, holding that, until well into the twentieth century, the state's position on the international chessboard was its leaders' prime preoccupation. It would agree with Clausewitz that war is the continuation of policy by other means, and chapter breaks often cut into the middle of major conflicts. At the same time, Simms certainly does not ignore the major economic, ideological, and technological shifts that conditioned policy.
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