Europe from Napoleon to World War I: 1815-1914
S 2018


NOTE:  Sam Pryor and Alice Lewis are coordinating this SDG together.

By 1815 Europe was reverberating from the aftermath of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, events that had not only challenged  the feudal, monarchical landscape of Europe but had engulfed virtually all of Europe in conflict. In that year, the great European powers met in Vienna with the goal of assuring that no one power could again threaten the security of the continent as had Napoleonic France, and guaranteeing this by restoring monarchies in France and elsewhere. This system, the Concert of Europe, held for most of the 19th century, which saw far fewer wars and less bloodshed than in any of the preceding four centuries. By 1914, this system had broken down, and Europe was again at  the brink of war -- this time the threat came from the newly formed German Empire, and industrialization ensured that the coming war would be far deadlier than anything seen before.  

In the years between the Napoleonic Wars and the outbreak of World War I, Europe experienced transformative political, economic, scientific and economic changes that created the modern world. Following the 1815 Congress of Vienna, Europe grappled with forces of political reaction, revolution and liberalism; growing nationalism; accelerating industrialization and its resulting social changes;  global expansionism and imperialism; new political alignments and philosophies such as Socialism, Marxism, and Anarchism; and a technological revolution that included the railway, the telegraph, the steamship and others. The changes in 19th century Europe were not just political, social and economic but included a series of shocks in the arts from Romanticism to Impressionism to “The Rites of Spring.”  

Based on the highly acclaimed book, The Pursuit of Power, Europe 1815-1914 by Richard J. Evans, this SDG will illuminate the incredible changes that took place across Europe from Russia in the east to Britain in the west. While the changes were not uniform across Europe, no part was left unchanged. In this SDG, we meet political leaders from Metternich to Bismarck, from Mazzini to Tsar Alexander III; social philosophers from Owen to Marx, from Bakunin to the Webbs; authors from Dickens to Tolstoy to Proust; and music composers and artists who revolutionized the arts. Join us for this discovery of Europe and the creation of the modern world.

Weekly Topics

1.       Politics and Revolution between Napoleon and 1830

2.       Peasants, Serfs and Landlords

3.       The 1st Industrial Revolution and the making of the European working class

4.       Mid-century Europe and the Revolutions of 1848

5.       Post-1848 Europe: Reactionaries, Reform, War, and Liberal Nationalism

6.       The 19th Century Social Revolution and the 2nd Industrial Revolution

7.       The Triumph of the Bourgeoisie and Liberalism

8.       Europeans and the Natural World: Nature, time, distance, disease, population changes and sex, crime and prisons

9.       Arts and Culture:  Romanticism, Religion, National Identity

10.   Arts, Culture and Learning:  Science, education, gender roles, mass entertainment, Realism and nationalism, the rise of Modern Art

11.   Democracy, the rise of the welfare state, socialism, anarchism, and the age of the masses

12.   The Crisis of Liberalism: The rise of the radical right, the politics of extremes, Americanization

13.   The Age of Imperialism

14.   Rising Conflicts and the end of the 19th century:  Imperial conflicts and the “Great Game”, the Balkans, European wars, Racism and the new Nationalism


Core Book

The Pursuit of Power, Europe 1815-1914 by Richard J. Evans, 2016.

Highly Recommended:

Europe and the Making of Modernity: 1815-1914 by Robin W. Winks, 2005.