Adam Zamoyski

Grand Designs

The Pursuit of Power: Europe 1815–1914

By

Allen Lane 819pp £35 order from our bookshop

I enjoyed this book a great deal more than I expected to – my hackles rise at thick volumes entitled Age of this or Pursuit of that. And the dedication to Eric Hobsbawm is hardly encouraging. But Richard Evans has given us a monumental, fascinating and often scintillating overview of 19th-century Europe that is both highly readable and stimulating. It does not, like Hobsbawm’s work, argue a case, though Marxist undertones are detectable in some areas. It is more of a reflective summary, covering not just the political, economic and sociopolitical ground, but also the cultural aspects of such processes as the decline of the aristocracy and the rise of new elites, or the effects of industrialisation on the development of cities, on the lives of the lower classes, on birth, death, abortion, prostitution, women’s rights, crime and a good many other areas besides. He makes generous use of anecdotes, vignettes and snappy quotes, which bring subjects to life.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Tarantino's latest film is 'a fairy tale about Hollywood, where fantasy is an industrial product and the boulevards… ,
    • 'I don’t think we’re here on Earth to be Happy. I think we’re here on Earth to help God. I am a messianic writer'.… ,
    • 'Darley’s book is not a mad dash through this most compelling and complex of English counties. Nor is it another ti… ,
    • 'Moser’s book offers such a gripping account of a profoundly damaged human being, trapped in a cycle of repetition,… ,
    • 'Ideas that I’d thought were set down in full continue to smoulder ... this book is only a snapshot of some larger… ,
    • 'Full of invention which, at its most pedestrian, is eminently Victorian, and at its most unrestrained wildly imagi… ,
    • 'What in other hands could have been a dry, pedantic account of Christianity’s birth and evolution becomes in Holla… ,