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The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815 (Allen Lane History) Hardcover – 26 Apr 2007

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane; 1st Edition edition (26 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0713990872
  • ISBN-13: 978-0713990874
  • Product Dimensions: 16.3 x 4.6 x 24.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 572,031 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


To cover a period in which so much changed is no mean undertaking. It
would have been all too easy to have become bogged down in remorseless
detail. Somehow, Blanning has not only managed to avoid this pitfall, but
has instead produced what can only be called a jolly good read. -- Leslie Mitchell, Literary Review, April 2007

'...strikes a nice balance between the Enlightenment's optimistic rationalism and the mud-soaked reality of everyday life'
-- Dominic Sandbrook, Telegraph Books of the Year

Economics, social policy, medicine, culture, popular religion, the
position of women, the role of the Jesuits, the importance of hunting: it's
hard to think of a significant feature of human life that is not given
serious and well-informed treatment in this book. The result is one of the
most impressive general histories to have appeared for many decades. -- Noel Malcolm, Sunday Telegraph, 15 April 2007

Europe's early-modern history viewed from an Olympian height - a
grand, gripping and all-encompassing read. -- Sunday Times 7 April 2007

This is broad-brush history writing at its best - authoritative,
fresh, crammed with incident and ideas and eminently readable.
-- George Rosie, Sunday Herald

This work's most winning quality is the sense one has throughout
of being in the company of not only the most expert but also the most
congenial of historical guides, a man who is himself a perfect product of
the European Enlightenment: humane, rational, sceptical and with an
encyclopedic learning enlivened by a mordant Voltairian wit. Let the
nations rejoice: this history of Europe is a truly glorious book. -- John Adamson, Sunday Times, 29 April 2007

`Tim Blanning's The Pursuit of Glory, a magnificent survey of Europe from 1648 to 1815, is lucid and all-encompassing but hard to read with a jaw permanently dropped in admiration'
-- Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph Books of the Year

About the Author

Tim Blanning is Professor of Modern History at the University of Cambridge. His other books include The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture, The French Revolutionary Wars 1787-1802 and The Rise and Fall of the French Revolution.

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Charles Vasey TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 26 Oct. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is an excellent summary of 150 years of history from which one may then proceed to suspend more focussed histories. Tim Blanning has elected to go all Fernand Braudel on us and although the book is about the pursuit of glory he insists on taking us through the supports upon which this aristocratic tradition lies or lay before getting to the icing. The base of all wealth - the peasant is therefore given his proper place in the first section of the book. There then follows a review of power in these societies and of the role of religion. I found the latter particularly effective. Finally, for those of you who enjoy court armour and periwigs we get to an excellent summary of what is in practice the rise and fall of France. Here by using a macro view one can see many trends that are less easy to grasp when dealing with an individual Louis.

One comes away aware of how easily it could have been different. If Vienna had fallen to the Turks, if the French had stayed out of the American War, and if Prussia had lost Silesia. The Ancien Regime can in less skilled hands seem a sterile period before the excesses of nationalism; here we see it differently.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Didier TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 3 July 2008
Format: Paperback
Before having read this book, I was largely ignorant about this period (1648 - 1815) in European history. Now, having read Tim Blanning's amazing book, I think that on the one hand I not only know a lot more but, on the other hand, remain conscious that I've barely scratched the surface (the suggested reading-list in itself covers some 11 pages, in small typescript) .

Contrary to what the title might seem to indicate, this book is about ever so much more than royalty and monarchs in the pursuit of glory. There's that too of course, but - as the titles to the four parts indicate - it's about life in all its aspects between 1648 and 1815:
- Part one: Life and death
- Part two: Power
- Part three: Religion and culture
- Part four: War and peace

In all, the book offers 677 pages (not counting the preface, suggested reading-list or index) densely packed with an amazing overview of virtually every major aspect of life in those days. This is no easy reading, but the rewards for making the effort to read this book with the attention and concentration it fully deserves are definitely worthwhile. What is also very refreshing is the fact that at times Blanning is not afraid to a) indicate that for some topics he can only give a short overview and b) freely admit that in some topics he's not a specialist.

Perhaps the best praise I can offer is that this book gave me an appetite to rush out to the bookstore and stock up on more to read about this fascinating period.
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30 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Tiro on 15 Oct. 2007
Format: Hardcover
The existing reviews give a good sense for what this book covers and I would like to try to add a bit beyond what has been said. I am not a historian, just a general reader. (But the book was pitched to general readers, so I think I can have a say).

First, Mr. Blanning has clearly "been there, done that, and got the t-shirt to prove it" when it comes to his subject matter. He is the master of the choice example, which could only be achieved through extensive travel, terrific language skills, and years of thinking and teaching. He is positively interesting, and pulls the reader in. Would love to have dinner with this guy, my treat.

Second, like many great historians, Blanning is attracted to ambivalence. In the concluding chapter he is quite explicit: there are two narratives that can be maintained about this period, a progressive one and a pessimistic one. Actually, one would be very hard pressed to purely progressive or purely pessimistic - it's up to each person to mix the two according to taste and all sorts of mixes are plausible given the evidence. Maybe a more interesting way to put it is that this period of history is not one of pure progress by any means. Strikes me as realistic.

One of his favorite sources of ambivalence is whether "x" is a revolution or an evolution. As in industrial, commercial, communications, and so on. He seems to fall in the evolutionary camp but I found him hazy in his commitment - he strikes me as more "evolution with punctuated equilibrium." Again, realistic. Bottom-line: his ambivalences make him an interesting thinker.

In truth, I came close to giving him 4 stars, however, for several reasons.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Basileus on 11 Jan. 2013
Format: Paperback
"Pursuit of Glory" by Tim Blanning is an exciting grand tour of Europe between 1648 (the Treaty of Münster) and 1815 (the end of Napoleon). It provides a breathtaking overview of the period, describing vividly how Europe transformed itself to a modern society by analyzing the underlying economic, political, military, religious, scientific and cultural developments.

By structuring the chapters by topic rather than chronologically, layer upon layer of wonderful tapestry emerges. The result is a fascinating view of an era that is nowadays largely overlooked. Every page is packed with relevant information, great one-liners, relating quotes and providing good analysis. The pace and style is both appealing and lucid. Topics covered filled many a blind spot in my knowledge. The last chapter, where Blanning addresses the difficulties of interpreting the period is splendid and depending on your perspective, one can draw completely different conclusions about the direction Europe and the world were heading for now.

Rather than repeat what has already been written in some of the excellent reviews below I will simply say that I immensely enjoyed this masterwork from page one and that it ranks high in my top 10 favourite history books.
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