(K. Brent Tomer),
The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815-1914. By Richard Evans. Viking; 928 pages; $40. Allen Lane; £35.
TO APPRECIATE the social transformations that took place in Europe between the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and the start of the first world war, consider what happened to its towns and cities. Economic growth and technological innovation allowed them to reach new and vertiginous heights. Lofty creations like the Eiffel Tower, completed in 1889, or the Royal Liver Building in Liverpool, which opened in 1911, symbolised a richer, more confident world following the Napoleonic wars.
In “The Pursuit of Power”, an impressive and richly documented new book, Richard Evans of Cambridge University says that most contemporaries were convinced this was a time of “open-ended improvement”. Breakneck industrialisation turned rural economies into metropolitan ones. Superior medicines and public sanitation, along with state vaccination programmes, cut the impact of epidemics like smallpox and typhus. Wars were relatively small and short-lived (the death rate of men in battle was seven…Continue reading