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A People's History of Modern Europe

A People's History of Modern Europe OPEN ACCESS

William A. Pelz
Copyright Date: 2016
Published by: Pluto Press
Pages: 256
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1c2crfj
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  • Book Info
    A People's History of Modern Europe
    Book Description:

    "Post-Ottoman Coexistence", interrogates ways of living together and asks what practices enabled centuries of cooperation and sharing, as well as how and when such sharing was disrupted.

    eISBN: 978-1-78371-767-5
    Subjects: History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction (pp. viii-xiv)

    Imagine kings ruling without subjects, generals waging war without soldiers, or businesspeople making profits without workers. It’s hard to take seriously any such silly situations, right? Yet, history is often written as if rulers, war leaders and moneymakers are the only people in society or, at least, the only people who matter. The current author dissents from this idea. It will be argued in this book that the common people matter and that their history matters. That is to say, the commoners’ role in history is an integral, yet lacking, part of the story of modern Europe, that has too...

  2. For about a thousand years after the collapse of the Roman Empire¹ (the artificial date usually given is ad 476), Western Europe became decentralized and chaotic, struggling to reclaim some organizational structure in a more localized manner under what we may call the feudal system.² This period is commonly referred to as the Middle Ages. Unlike the Roman governments before, this was a time when Europe had little centralized political authority. Laws, customs, even interpretations of Christianity might vary from place to place. Everywhere, the feudal period was a confusing socioeconomic soup made up from three main ingredients: Roman traditions,...

  3. Before the official Reformation that we read about in textbooks, there was Jan Hus of Bohemia, a precursor to all the changes of the sixteenth century. Hus became active in the fifteenth century. As a professor at Prague University, Hus made a critique of the Catholic Church that was in many ways deeper and more biting than that of Luther a century later. Despite widespread support, Hus made the fatal mistake of believing the clerical establishment would honor the immunity granted him to attend a Church council. Instead of the theological debate he had been expecting, Hus was tried for...

  4. Even conservative historians have had to acknowledge that Europe in the middle of the seventeenth century was in a period of revolutionary upheaval. Most famous is the English Revolution that may be said to have run from 1640 till 1660. But other crises marked the period as well. France saw a series of revolts known as theFrondes, there was revolution in the Netherlands, an unsuccessful revolt in Catalonia and a victorious rebellion in Portugal. Add to these upheaval in Naples, Bohemia, Ireland and some of the German states and it would seem that European society was in general crisis.¹...

  5. Legend has it that Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai was once asked his opinion of the French Revolution. He is reported to have responded, “It is too soon to say.”¹ For better or worse, few have followed this example of withholding judgment. Within the English-speaking world, the image implanted upon millions of minds is one of crazed French revolutionaries running amok, as depicted in the famous Charles Dickens work,A Tale of Two Cities.² Not only has this book sold hundreds of millions of copies,³ there have been four silent films and at least three sound movies not to mention comic...

  6. The Revolution in Production, or the Industrial Revolution,¹ as it is more commonly known, is typically presented as a dull series of inventions by a cast of male, mainly British geniuses. So we have a parade of names and inventions presented without substantial discussion of the human costs. James Hargreave invents the “spinning jenny” to allow an increased amount of cotton to be produced by the one worker (1764). James Watt creates the steam engine (1769). Cartwright patents the power loom (1785). The first steam-powered textile factory is established in Nottingham, England (1790). And on the list goes. But what...

  7. The Revolution in Production was far from the only upheaval to upset nineteenth-century European society. With the end of the French Revolution and the later, final defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo, the forces of the old order appeared to consign the spirit of revolution to footnotes in historical tomes. In France, the fall of Napoleon allowed the so-called “holy alliance” of Britain, Russia, the Austrian Empire and reactionary Prussia to put a member of the Bourbon line back on the restored French throne in 1815. Exhausted by years of revolution, sacrifice and war, it was thought that the French people...

  8. Radicals in nineteenth-century Europe devoted themselves to more than grand transcontinental enterprises like the First International or radical insurrections like the Commune.¹ They built up organizations of workers, which could both fight for material improvements (higher wages, shorter hours, better working conditions) and prepare proletarians to take power in the future. Although the origins of trade unions can be traced backed to the medieval guilds, unionism took on a new importance in the period after 1871. The growth of unionism was made possible by broad developments largely outside the movement’s control: 1) the economic cycle, 2) technological and social changes,...

  9. All wars give rise to myths and World War I is certainly no exception. In most Anglophone countries, people “know” that the war was caused by an aggressive and expansionist Germany. Yet much of the evidence suggests a much more nuanced picture.¹ Likewise, it is commonplace wisdom that the conflict was almost universally welcomed by the common people everywhere, with this support only weakening, if at all, at the very end of the fighting. Even a century later, many find evidence contrary to these ingrained beliefs hard to accept.² One radical argues that even right from the start, “the popularity...

  10. If the war to end all wars was a disaster for the commoners of the West, it was, if possible, even worse for the people of the Russian Empire. Backward economically and as deeply superstitious as it was religious, Russia was a historical curiosity. French financial capital had invested heavily in attempts to modernize this land, as had the British and Americans. Between 1890 and 1904, the total railroad mileage within Russia doubled. In addition, national production of coal, iron, and steel doubled during the last five years of the nineteenth century. The Russian bourgeoisie, with its ties to Paris...

  11. The “war to end all wars” didn’t eliminate war, but it did hasten the destruction of many pre-war empires. The once mighty czarist regime collapsed in 1917 and the Austro-Hungarian Empire was swept onto the proverbial dust heap of history the following year. Both these transformations were, to one extent or another, the result of uprisings from below by those who had had enough of war, oppression and exploitation. The Turkish revolution that came from within the ruins of the Ottoman Empire was much more top down. The Ottoman Empire was the last great Islamic empire and had been in...

  12. The Weimar Republic’s brutal destruction in 1933 gave hope and strength to the ultra-right throughout Europe, while it awoke the left to very real danger of fascism. A year after flames had leapt from the Reichstag, signaling the death of freedom in Germany, a movement from across the Rhine arose with the same ideas. On February 6, 1934, war veterans and right-wing extremists descended on central Paris nominally to complain about government corruption. It seems likely that many came to do fundamental damage to parliamentary government. The demonstration quickly turned into a riot as police fought back wave after wave...

  13. Even before the blood of battle ceased to flow, the Allied powers began to plan their division of the world. At a meeting with Stalin in the Kremlin on October 9, 1944, Winston Churchill offered a deal on the Balkans. With this deal, the United Kingdom would retain 90 percent influence in Greece although the specifics were never spelled out, and in return Russian predominance in Rumania and Bulgaria would be recognized, with a sharing of power in Yugoslavia and Hungary. Of course, this was partially an exercise in make-believe, as the United States had announced that it intended to...

  14. The expression “cold war” has a long history. Used by the ancient Greeks, Spanish crusaders and popular into the twentieth century where it was employed by the likes of George Orwell and Winston Churchill, a cold war is when there is a state of conflict that stops just ever so short of direct military combat. Instead, the fighting mainly takes the form of economic competition, political maneuvers, propaganda and, at times, proxy wars between nations allied to one of the more powerful nations. It is a widely held belief that the post-World War II cold war started in 1946 or...

  15. On the night of August 12–13, 1961, barbed wire was erected around West Berlin, as what has come to be known as the Berlin Wall was being built, to howls of outrage from the West. This extremely bold move would be judged in mainstream history as a prime example of the vicious and aggressive nature of the Soviets. In point of fact, the USSR only agreed to build this so-called “Anti-Fascist Protection Barrier” after newly elected US President Kennedy indicated the Americans would not oppose this action.¹ As this undermines the orgy of anti-Communist propaganda unleashed over this event,...

  16. “The struggle continues,” was more than a mere slogan of the never-say-die radical left. Though wishful thinking was often behind these words, it is nonetheless true that in 1968 the left was still far from achieving all their goals. They continued their movement, taking on class struggles, feminist movements, migration into Europe, concerns about ecological degradation, demands for LGBT rights and any number of other protests. The French flames burned out to join the cold dust of Gaullism, waiting to be swept into the trash heap of history. Heading south, the winds of revolt blew into Italy. During 1967–68,...

  17. The Berlin Wall came crashing down, albeit while DDR border guards stood around waiting for orders that never came; the evil Soviet Empire had collapsed into the recycling bin of history. The euphoria of those dancing on the Wall was real—and often enhanced by impressive quantities of drink or something special to smoke. It was, as some said, “the end of history,” where all was right in this best of all possible worlds. The captive Europeans had liberated themselves. No more secret police spying on innocent, ordinary citizens. Freedom combined with unheard-of levels of individual consumption. If it was...

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 International
This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 International.
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