In his newly published history of Europe, Johannes Paulmann describes the major changes Europeans experienced and brought about during the second half of the nineteenth century. They laid the material and intellectual foundations some of which affect the continent and the world until today.
Europe saw an encompassing transformation between 1850 and 1914. The use of fossil energy enabled enormous gains in productivity. People, goods, and ideas were mobilised across Europe and the globe with the speed of communication increasing rapidly. The future seemed dynamic and open. Yet, the far-reaching changes also generated doubts. The belief in progress went hand in hand with criticism of materialism, the pollution and destruction of the environment, political and social repression, and violent colonialism.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Europe had reached the peak of its imperial dominance of the world. Competition and nationalistic rivalry as well as manifold cooperation across boundaries were characteristic of the time. The outbreak of a general European war was therefore more likely than in previous decades but the various diplomatic crises had been manageable – and 1914 would have been avoidable if governments had not chosen to take great risks.
The book has received warm reviews in the press for its masterly survey of the period and its clear arguments. See for example Ernst Pipers review in Der Tagesspiegel.
For more information, see C.H. Beck with an extract on locating Europe in the nineteenth century (“Grenzen und Entgrenzen: Wie weit reicht Europa im 19. Jahrhundert”).