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.