Top positive review
28 of 30 people found this helpful
on 18 April 2013
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'.
His final chapter ends not with a prediction about the future, he is far too asute to make that error, but with a number of key questions.
In his book Norman Davies reminds us that in the beginning there was no Europe, by starting his book in 1500 Brendan Simms shows how his subject developed from nothing to a continent of enormous importance.
There is a tendency for historians to write a great lenght about less and less. Whole books are written, for example, about one year, sometimes even less. The Cambridge Mediaeval History covers a very short period but it takes 8 volumes. One of the great merits of this book is the depth of knowledge displayed over several centuries.
This superb book is a very worthy successor to the books on European History by Fisher, Braudel and Eugene Weber. It is also a must for all students of history since it saves them having to plough through numerous volumes.
In addition, Professor Simms has shown how it is also possible to commumicate with the general public. If students and the general public wish to learn what happened how, where and when they should read this book.
The late Professor Alan J P Taylor once said of a particular book: 'it is ninety percent true and one hundred percent useless'. I am sure he would say of this book it is not only beautifully written but 100% true and 1000% useful.