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The Pursuit of Glory: The Five Revolutions That Made Modern Europe: 1648-1815
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The Pursuit of Glory: The Five Revolutions That Made Modern Europe: 1648-1815 (Penguin History of Europe #6)

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  281 ratings  ·  53 reviews
In 1648, Europe was essentially a medieval society. By 1815, it was the powerhouse of the modern world. In exuberant prose, Tim Blanning investigates ?the very hinge of European history? ("The New York Times") between the end of the Thirty Y ears? War and the Battle of Waterloo that witnessed five of the modern world's great revolutions: scientific, industrial, American, F...more
ebook, 736 pages
Published May 31st 2007 by Penguin Books (first published April 26th 2007)
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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...more
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...more
Wilson Hines
May 24, 2012 Wilson Hines rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
Milton Soong
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...)
Henri Tournyol du Clos
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
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
Justin Evans
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
Simon Wood
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...more
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...more
Antonio Nunez
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...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
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
John Gordon
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...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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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
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
May 09, 2009 Blake rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History Buffs
Shelves: history
Excellent book on a critical period of European history. It covers events, people, rulers, culture, religion and wars. Everywhere the writing is clear and incite full. The book covers especially England, France, and the Holy Roman Empire, with lesser coverage of Spain, Russia and Prussia. Since the book is by topic, it does a lot of jumping around. It would be nice to have this book around to use as a reference as each topic is clearly written. I have gained a better understanding of Europe and...more
Tim Hughes
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
Great book for novice or one adept in history. Gives many details, at times too many and it would have helped to explain more about the different monarchs ties to each other. Otherwise, I like how he sections off topics and his humorous interjections here and there. He sticks to facts and show opions of different authors (from then and now) to help the reader get a full grasp of what was going on. It is a long read but worth it!
Josh Hamacher
This volume is about as entertaining as a "serious" history book can be. It does seem to assume that you already know the basics of European history for this period - which, as a somewhat typical American, I did not. But with minimal assistance from Wikipedia, I made it through and enjoyed every page.
This was one of the easiest history books I've ever read. I especially liked the early chapters on what life was really like (theoretically) for the people of the time. Once it got to the various leaders (and requisite assasinations and beheadings) I sort of lost interest, but Blanning's writing was thoroughly engaging throughout the book. Definitely worth the read!
Lauren Albert
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.
I will admit that, while I do enjoy this books content, the actual reading tends to seem never ending. That being said, I will read it and be glad I did. It is a very detailed work suited for anyone with a thirst for knowledge (with regard to European History) and a lot of patience.
Martin Glen
An excellent overview of the period - chapters are themed rather than chronological, so one can focus on areas of particular interest - can be fairly academic in places, so be prepared to put a bit of work in to complete
Top marks. If you are interested in Europe's history 1600's and beyond, this is the best book to start with, framing 200 hundred years of wars, politics, cultural, judicial, communications and social evolution.
A comprehensive primer on eighteen century social developments. If you're really keen on the development of roads and the waning power of the Catholic Church, just to name two, you'll love it! I, alas, did not.
Not bad, but harps on one theme.
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Professor of Modern European History at Cambridge University, now retired.
More about Timothy C.W. Blanning...
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