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on 10 March 2013
Highly readable, wide ranging across all the arts. Specially good on music.Manages to be both entertaining and highly intelligent. Bravo!
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Timothy Blanning's The Culture of Power and the Power of Culture tackles one of the most interesting questions in political and cultural history – how different regimes in the late 18th Century attempted to project and protect their authority by cultural, non-political and non-military means. More than any of his predecessors, Blanning focuses on music and opera as wll as on more familiar literary activities; he gives, in the process, a vivid and engaging picture of the way in which different courts enhanced their social and political standing through public concerts and opera on a grand scale. The book also provides a novel understanding of the role of the aristocracy in the creation of what is too commonly labelled 'the bourgeois public sphere'; and it culminates in a re-telling from a novel perspective of the contribution of cultural forces in the downfall of the French ancien regime. The role of a public culture in creating national and nationalistic aspirations that the sclerotic regime of Louis XVI could not accommodate is explored in an original and persuasive fashion. So that we end at a familiar destination only after taking an unusually imaginative route.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 11 March 2005
I am fairly knowledgeable about the 18th century, but this book brought me some brilliant new insights and new viewpoints - especially on 18th century Prussia, on the popularity of George III and (oddly) of Joseph II. Superb illustration through the history of culture of how the 18th century monarchy in France, unlike that of Prussia and England, failed to connect with the "public sphere". I found the omission of the Dutch Republic regrettable and a few passages a little tedious; but for me the book ranks with Orlando Figes' Natasha's Dance (see my review) as one of the few books about periods with which I am pretty familiar that has given me so many new angles to think about.
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