22 of 31 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815 (Paperback)
Tim Blanning may not be personally in pursuit of glory, but judging by the back page blurb he has achieved a good deal of it. The man at the Sunday Telegraph read it with his "jaw permanently dropped in admiration" - at the Sunday Times it was "let the nations rejoice . . . a truly glorious book" - "Sparkling" intoned the Guardian. Appetite whetted with all this praise I plunged into the book. Alas, between the hype and reality there is a gulf.
"The Pursuit of Glory" starts off reasonably well. Part one covers what might be labelled the Socio-Economic sphere, though without enough discussion of the economic side of it for my taste. The section that contemplates whether an industrial revolution happened in Britain or not, never seemed to get its teeth into the subject, and I felt that Blannings judgement was pre-ordained; he doesn't seem a great fan of revolutions, whether they're Industrial, English (1640's and 50's) or French (1790's).
The second part "Power" is a tolerable discussion of "Rulers and their Elites" and "Reform and Revolution" especially if you are up to coping with a regular bombardment of names from the various Royals and their noble (or otherwise) flunkies. This brings us to the third part, "Religion and Culture" and I presume this is where the claim that the book is "provocative" is rooted. I certainly felt seriously provoked while reading a thirty-page chapter on hunting including statistics of the kills of various notables of the era. The book ends with a hundred and fifty pages of warfare.
One thing that I found surprising is that Blanning only incidentally mentions Europes over-seas Empires. Why on earth have thirty-pages on hunting (followed by forty-pages on elite architecture) and not deal with the Imperial issue in anything like a systematic manner? Given that this is a crucial factor in the period's history at the European and Global level, this has to be marked down as a serious omission. Another source of irritation was the register Blanning writes in: essentially conservative, complacent and well pleased with itself.
"The Pursuit of Power" is a book that left me under whelmed and without any feeling that I had gained any great knowledge or insight into the age. Not the nicest of feelings after slogging through 677 pages in search of an understanding of European history during an important era. Not one that I'd recommend.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 Dec 2010 11:06:39 GMT
Jm Leven says:
Thanks very much for that. I pretty much suspected it was 'that kind of book' from the Sunday Times bestseller legend, but none of the other reviews gave me a sense of the contents.
In reply to an earlier post on 3 Dec 2010 12:49:08 GMT
S Wood says:
Thanks for the comment. I always try to summarise the contents as well as give my tu'pence worth and it's nice to get a little note of appreciation.
Posted on 25 Feb 2012 04:49:23 GMT
Overseas Reviewer says:
Another good review S Wood - I find the list of stuff you've reviewed a better source for interesting reads than 'amazon recommends' or whatever. Power to your elbow.
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