29 of 39 people found the following review helpful
verweile doch, du bist so schön,
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This review is from: The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815 (Allen Lane History) (Hardcover)
The period from the peace of Westphalia to the Congress of Vienna has the virtue for the high-end popular historian of being close enough in time and culture to be relevant, while also being distant enough to be contemplated more or less for pleasure. It also has the further advantage, for the commercially ambitious author, that the personal was very much the political - vast impersonal historical forces can't even begin to account for the likes of Catherine the Great, Louis XIV, or Frederick the Great.
The somewhat austere Prof. T.C.W. Blanning has revised himself as just plain Tim (registering this little bit of image modification, I could not help thinking of the Tim the Sorcerer character from Monty Python's Holy Grail - sorry) to write this. And this is a very much a Tim, rather than a Prof. T.C.W. sort of book: it manages to be relaxed, entertaining and learned, and to cover a lot of ground without losing - or at least any more than necessary - focus. And yes, the first chapter, on travel and communications, is as good as everyone says it is.
I do wonder if Tim is aiming just a smidgen higher than he should have. Casual jokes about cultural theory which contrast Hegelian aircraft carriers with positivist fishing fleets are very funny for a small audience (more Clarendon than Allen-Lane sized, I would have thought), but maybe a bit exclusionary - I wonder what people outside that audience think. Similarly, I was outrageously flattered at the large intersection between my library and his (said intersection being documented mostly as casual, and un-bibed, allusions in the text). Again, I'm not sure what the larger audience might make of this.
Anyway, an excellent, entertaining book, and I definitely agree with another reviewer who thought that Tim Blanning must be great at a dinner party (and also, maybe more importantly, as a thesis supervisor). In fact, given that he appears to have written his dissertation on Mainz, if he ever is back in town, and drops me a line, I would be delighted to offer a glass of riesling.