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A Political and Social History of Modern Europe V.1.   By: (1882-1964)

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This book represents an attempt on the part of the author to satisfy a very real need of a textbook which will reach far enough back to afford secure foundations for a college course in modern European history.

The book is a long one, and purposely so. Not only does it undertake to deal with a period at once the most complicated and the most inherently interesting of any in the whole recorded history of mankind, but it aims to impart sufficiently detailed information about the various topics discussed to make the college student feel that he is advanced a grade beyond the student in secondary school. There is too often a tendency to underestimate the intellectual capabilities of the collegian and to feed him so simple and scanty a mental pabulum that he becomes as a child and thinks as a child. Of course the author appreciates the fact that most college instructors of history piece out the elementary textbooks by means of assignments of collateral reading in large standard treatises. All too frequently, however, such assignments, excellent in themselves, leave woeful gaps which a slender elementary manual is inadequate to fill. And the student becomes too painfully aware, for his own educational good, of a chasmal separation between his textbook and his collateral reading. The present manual is designed to supply a narrative of such proportions that the need of additional reading will be somewhat lessened, and at the same time it is provided with critical bibliographies and so arranged as to enable the judicious instructor more easily to make substitutions here and there from other works or to pass over this or that section entirely. Perhaps these considerations will commend to others the judgment of the author in writing a long book.

Nowadays prefaces to textbooks of modern history almost invariably proclaim their writers' intention to stress recent happenings or at least those events of the past which have had a direct bearing upon the present. An examination of the following pages will show that in the case of this book there is no discrepancy between such an intention on the part of the present writer and its achievement. Beginning with the sixteenth century, the story of the civilization of modern Europe is carried down the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries with constant crescendo . Of the total space devoted to the four hundred years under review, the last century fills half. And the greatest care has been taken to bring the story down to date and to indicate as clearly and calmly as possible the underlying causes of the vast contemporaneous European war, which has already put a new complexion on our old historical knowledge and made everything that went before seem part and parcel of an old regime.

As to why the author has preferred to begin the story of modern Europe with the sixteenth century, rather than with the thirteenth or with the French Revolution, the reader is specially referred to the Introduction . It has seemed to the author that particularly from the Commercial Revolution of the sixteenth century dates the remarkable and steady evolution of that powerful middle class the bourgeoisie which has done more than all other classes put together to condition the progress of the several countries of modern Europe and to create the life and thought of the present generation throughout the world. The rise of the bourgeoisie is the great central theme of modern history; it is the great central theme of this book.

Not so very long ago distinguished historians were insisting that the state, as the highest expression of man's social instincts and as the immediate concern of all human beings, is the only fit subject of historical study, and that history, therefore, must be simply "past politics"; under their influence most textbooks became compendiums of data about kings and constitutions, about rebellions and battles... Continue reading book >>

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