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The Pursuit of Glory: Europe 1648-1815 (Penguin History of Europe #6)

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  487 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
The Pursuit of Glory brings to life one of the most extraordinary periods in European history from the battered, introvert continent after the Thirty Years War to the dynamic one that experienced the French Revolution and the wars of Napoleon. Tim Blanning depicts the lives of ordinary people and the dominant personalities of the age (Louis XIV, Frederick the Great, Napole ...more
Hardcover, 736 pages
Published May 31st 2007 by Viking Adult (first published April 26th 2007)
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Nov 08, 2009 Emily rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2008
The Pursuit of Glory is not just the best book I've read in a while; it's also, due to its extraordinary length, the only book I've read in a while. I was inspired to pick it up by this almost excessively glowing NYT review, which turns out to be a very accurate description of it--so I'll try to mention some other aspects.

It's an entry in a new Cambridge series that intends to tell the story of European history from the classical period until, more or less, now--in eight volumes. So I suppose y
Justin Evans
Nov 22, 2010 Justin Evans rated it it was ok
Shelves: history-etc
I'm sure it's incredibly difficult to write a book about European History covering a hundred and fifty years which is at all academically respectable; Mr Blanning has certainly done it. But the balancing of respectability with accessibility has come at great cost. First, what is surely the most bizarre decision every taken in the history of publishing, this book has no end-notes. So where an author might want to write "the condition of roads in Europe was very bad in 1648, but by the nineteenth ...more
Wilson Hines
May 24, 2012 Wilson Hines rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: History lovers
Shelves: favorites, purchased
First of all, please understand this book is not for the casual reader. I've read this book for the third time and I'm now just reviewing it. If it means anything to you, I really don't do much of re-watching movies and I certainly don't do much of re-reading of books, as they are so time consuming.

Understand this book is special, for more than one reason. 1) This book is a survey first and foremost of the European people. I would say that well over half of this book is devoted to learning what
Mr Blanning has written an excellent political, social and military history of the period which saw great change and challenge for rulers and their citizens.

As other reviewers have said it is not necessarily an "easy" read as the detail of the author's work is substantial and the period and scope wide. However, Mr Blanning does the general reader such as myself a good service as he recognises that statistic after statistic is both a challenge and not that interesting, and so frequently provides
Jul 18, 2016 Philipp rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, history
Absolutely amazing - and part of a longer series I didn't know existed before, now I have to read all of those, thank you very much, I'll just stop pretending to be an adult for 7 months, and then go back to pretending, I guess

So here we have 1648 - 1815 (maybe I should have started from the beginning?), an era which connects several of the major events of European history - the Industrial Revolution, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic wars, etc. The wonderful thing here is
Aug 06, 2016 Liviu rated it it was amazing
while it is fairly long and being split into subject parts which sometimes bog down into detail so lacking narrative momentum, this book is superb as a guide to understanding the crucial 1648-1815 period when our modern world came into being - there are tons of examples of where things stood in 1648 (from communications, to trade, to science...) and where in 1815 and how the gulf between such was arguably higher than between 1648 and the classical era of the Greeks and Romans

lots and lots of ane
Milton Soong
Jul 25, 2011 Milton Soong rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I took me 4 years to finish, but it's worth it. What hardcore history should be: creative, thought provoking, tells old stories in a new light, and not without a bit of humor. The slow pace of my reading is based on that fact that it is a dense book and requires you to take time to absorb the information. Eagerly waiting for the next volume in the series (and hopefully I make it through a little faster this time...)
Lauren Albert
Jul 27, 2014 Lauren Albert rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-european
It is hard to do justice to the breadth and depth of this book. Blanning keeps it all under his control and never loses the thread of narrative. Covering what he sees as the five revolutions of the period (French, American, industrial, scientific and romantic), he weaves them all together into a fascinating whole.
Antonio Nunez
Jul 12, 2013 Antonio Nunez rated it it was amazing
This is not the first volume to be published in the Penguin History of Europe. That honor belongs to William Jordan's "Europe in the High Middle Ages", a book not as praiseworthy as Mr. Blanning's, which reviewers on both sides of the Atlantic have regarded as one of the top history books of 2007.

"The Pursuit of Glory" is a very ambitious book. It covers, in a single volume, a period that took up 4 volumes in Will and Ariel Durant's Story of Civilization. It begins during the minority of Louis X
Nov 12, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it
Shelves: european-history
The Pursuit of Glory, Europe 1648-1815 by Timothy C.W. Blanning is a text on Europeam history during the so called "Glorious Revolution," which saw the rise of various political thoughts and theories, such as liberalism and republicanism, and the overall improvement of infrastructure, healthcare and human rights, albeit very slowly.

This text starts off and is organised in an innovative way. The first chapter is on transportation infrastructure, including roads, canals and the like. The followin
Elliott Bignell
Apr 12, 2015 Elliott Bignell rated it really liked it
A monumental segment of an even more monumental series of histories, this second appearance in the Penguin history of Europe covers that decisive slice of time from the end of the 30-Years War to the end of the Napoleonic wars. This segment of history covers so much that changed the world that the ambition of even attempting it in a single volume merits high praise. Above all, this is the story of the rise of the nation state, that double-edged sword that clove the inward-directed Middle Ages an ...more
Simon Wood
Sep 10, 2013 Simon Wood rated it it was ok
EUROPE 1648-1815

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 r
Alexander Seifert
May 13, 2016 Alexander Seifert rated it it was ok
It took me a long while to read this book -- much longer than I wanted it to take. Part of that was because of a three-week gap after returning it to the library.

Anyway, the book itself wasn't terrible (and this is coming from someone who generally enjoys most historical works, however dry they may be). This book was very dry. It covers a large swath of history (nearly two centuries), but there were only a few times where I genuinely felt like I was drawn into events. Too often, I felt like I wa
A well-written, and satisfying general survey of the life and history of Europe from the Enlightenment to the Revolution. Blanning looks very widely, from the nature of agriculture to trade. There is room for criticism here and there. Two different chapters, "Court and Country" and "Palace and Gardens" I felt could have been shortened and combined. This might allow for more details for areas that didn't get as much details (such as the Balkans, of the Crimea), or perhaps some more cultural, or p ...more
May 18, 2015 Ilinca rated it really liked it
Whew. This took me three months to read, and some parts I really rushed through. There's good and bad here - mostly good, as this is a very thorough history of the period; what is less than perfect is the sheer amount of information and detail. In his quest for thoroughness, Blanning spends a lot of time on discussing the roads and whatnot, which is important, no doubt, but maybe could have been dealt with in less time and detail.
Also, some things he just assumes you already know (like exactly w
Dec 12, 2010 Tim rated it really liked it
Blanning's enormous history is rich in story and anecdote, if not with an overwhelming argument. The book is organized topically - almost encyclopedia-like in its thematic structure and I even read the section on agriculture with interest. Dip into it, do not expect his subtitle about revolutions to control the narrative, and realize he has biases against the religious (nasty and contemptuous at times, and even a snarky attack on Professor John McManners for his religious vocation), and a bit of ...more
Jul 31, 2010 Jlawrence rated it really liked it
As advertised, an excellent overview of European history, 1648-1815. Blanning has a knack for following up a general statement or raw data with colorful anecdotes that illustrate his point, and he does this consistently (a good example: after statistics on the expansion of waterways as a method of transport, he drops quotations from some amusing travel diaries of the day which highlight the change).

Various aspects of the age - religious, cultural, economic, military exploits, etc - are all give
Henri Tournyol du Clos
Sep 25, 2014 Henri Tournyol du Clos rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This is by far the best history of the period that I have read, as it provides a deep understanding of most of the important transformations that were occurring, even if the political & military narrative at the end is far too allusive. No history book is ever perfect, though and, in this case, I wish that the author had had some basic training in economics, starting with growth modelling, and also had dispensed altogether with absolute amounts in meaningless monetary units. We now have, tha ...more
Darran Mclaughlin
Good book, I liked it. He challenged my view that this period was a whiggish progression towards greater reason, democracy, liberality and enlightenment. However, he does focus almost entirely upon history 'from above' in that he concentrates on high politics and great men, Kings and aristocrats without covering ordinary people as much as he could have. He also focuses upon the great powers and doesn't have much to say about more peripheral countries, like Norway or Portugal or Greece or Hungary ...more
Bruce Reiter
Jan 25, 2016 Bruce Reiter rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent book for the person who wants to know how Europe evolved from the age of absolutism to the end of Napoleon and the beginning of the Industrial Age. In the process the author takes us through the improvements in roads and transportation, the triumphs and defeats of Protestantism and Catholicism, a little bit of art and architecture, serfs, nobles, revolutionaries, armies, navies, the importance of printing with a dry humor to appreciate. I wished at the halfway point that I h ...more
John Gordon
Mar 03, 2014 John Gordon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The Pursuit of Glory looks at the 18th Century in Europe from practically every angle and perspective conceivable. The book is organised thematically and covers in detail the religious, cultural, economic and political aspects of the time. The numerous military campaigns are discussed along with the enlightenment, secularism, reform and revolution.
I am overwhelmed by the authors depth of knowledge and impressed by his readable writing style. I must admit, I found some parts heavy going but the m
This is an excellent general history of Europe covering the period between the late 17th century and the early 19th century. It is written in an intelligent yet accessible style by a historian who is clearly knowledgable and erudite, with a streak of wit. Blanning also endears himself to the reader by freely admitting that any number of the period's endless, complicated internecine wars and petty diplomatic squabblings (and there were many) are actually too complex and/or dull to render an inter ...more
Charles Kerns
I favor books that are not too thrilling, even a bit boring. I don't want the next page pulling at me when it's time for sleep at night. History books usually fill the bill. I know how they turn out so I am along for the ride and whatever insights the author has.

But with this book, I find, there are some books even too boring even for me. This is good for my sleep. I put the book down well before I had planned. I will say that it has interesting facts about birth control, transportation, the pl
Kevin McAllister
When discussing the social aspects of the time period 1648-1815, i.e. the agricultural, commercial, industrial, and cultural revolutions, Blanning's tome usually kept my interests peaked. But when he delved into the countless different monarchies, and the endless numbers of battles fought during the time period, I found myself loosing interest. A time frame of almost 170 years was just to encompassing. There were definitely some great leaders during this time frame. But unfortunately, because of ...more
Nov 02, 2014 Shane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book was largely interesting, but the author did tend to sometimes wander aimlessly about from subject to subject. Another annoying habit he had was that he'd sometimes provide a quote in a foreign language - French or German, usually - and not bother to translate it into English. Usually the quote was there to try and emphasise a point he was making. Sorry, but some of us that are reading a book in English can only understand English.

It's not quite the book that I was hoping for, nor the bo
Jun 12, 2011 Jim rated it really liked it
To travel from London to Bath took 50 hours in 1700, the same as for many centuries past. Comparable journeys were the same throughout Europe--and in the Ottoman Empire, the Mughal Empire, and China. In 1800 this journey took only 16 hours, and similar improvements had been made elsewhere in Europe. But the rival civilizations remained far behind.

Tim Blanning tells how this happened, not only in communications but also in the interrelated realms of trade, manufacturing, agriculture, political p
Casey Mahon
Jan 24, 2016 Casey Mahon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great book, very detailed, covered a wide range of subjects across a large expanse of time, but still well organized. Perhaps a bit too "English-centric" with most other parts of Europe compared to England. But this was less about the use of England as a standard to be compared too, and more or an organizing principle given the wide base of material to cover. I especially enjoyed how it did not follow a chronological method and instead remained descriptive of its topic areas. Highly recommended.
Feb 05, 2010 Diane rated it it was amazing
Comprehensive history of Europe between the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815. The book covers communications, culture, and religion as well as politics and warfare. The author does a good job of highlighting the paradoxes and contradictions of the period. I thought the section on culture was the best. Since the book covers such a long period of time, it would have been nice if he had talked more about the changes that took place over the period, but he conce ...more
Adam Kemezis
Jan 25, 2008 Adam Kemezis rated it really liked it
Generally solid overview history of the ancien regime and revolutionary period. Extremely well written and readable. I often found myself wishing the guy would linger more on any one topic, which I guess is a good sign. Better on the whole with political and military topics than intellectual ones, at least that was my feeling. A few interesting arguments - religion in 18c is more important than anyone thinks; interesting stuff on whether the industrial revolution really happened that quickly. A ...more
Tim Hughes
Apr 19, 2013 Tim Hughes rated it it was amazing
i love this book, i've read it three times. the perfect popular history. acknowledges the historiography without getting bogged down, eschews grand determinist theory while allowing for retrospective long-term patterns to emerge, is entertaining and wry without being gushy, is skeptical without being cynical, idiosyncratic without being contrary. demonstrates equal skill and interest in economic, social, cultural, military and political history. has a particularly rich vein of contemporary anecd ...more
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Timothy Charles William Blanning Blanning, FBA is a retired Professor of Modern European History at the University of Cambridge. His work focuses on the history of Europe from the 17th century to the beginning of the First World War.
More about Timothy C.W. Blanning...

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Penguin History of Europe (7 books)
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