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Long 19th Century:  European History from 1789 to 1917

Long 19th Century: European History from 1789 to 1917

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Long 19th Century: European History from 1789 to 1917

Course No. 8190
Professor Robert I. Weiner, Ph.D.
Lafayette College
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Course No. 8190
  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for names, works, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. The video version is well illustrated and features more than 300 portraits, illustrations, and maps. You'll see portraits of major players from this period of European history, including Otto von Bismarck, Alfred Dreyfuss, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Sigmund Freud. You'll also see illustrations of events ranging from the first Industrial Revolution to the Franco-Prussian War. And you'll benefit from maps that help you truly understand the scope of the 1848 revolutions, the spread of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and more.
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Course Overview

History at its most interesting is complex, a fascinating whirl of events, personalities, and forces, and few periods of history offer us such captivating complexity as Europe's 19th "century"—the often-broadly defined period from the French Revolution to World War I that formed the foundation of the modern world.

How was that foundation built? And what did that transition to modernity mean for peasants, workers, the middle class, aristocrats, women, and minorities?

Why did an era that began with the idealism of the French Revolution and the power of the Industrial Revolution culminate in the chaos of World War I, considered by most historians to be the greatest tragedy of modern European history? Did nationalism and imperialism inevitably lead in such a direction, or were there other factors involved?

Even these questions, as important as they are, can only hint at the complexity of this period, just as this course can really only put us on a path toward the answers.

Understand a Turbulent Era

Dr. Robert I. Weiner assumes no prior knowledge of this era and no professional vocabulary, "just interest, curiosity, and hopefully, passion."

Disclaimers notwithstanding, these lectures indeed offer the opportunity for anyone with an interest in history to take an enormous stride toward understanding the whys of this turbulent and important era, and not just the whats.

Professor Weiner, a five-time recipient of Lafayette's Student Government Superior Teaching Award during his 35 years of teaching history at Lafayette College, leads you on a spirited journey across an ever-changing European landscape, examining the forces and personalities that reshaped the continent's physical borders, diplomatic relationships, and balance of power.

He moves from the impact of both the French and Industrial Revolutions in the period from 1789–1848, into the so-called "unifications" of Italy and Germany in the 1850s and 1860s, followed by the spread of industrialism and nationalism into the furthest reaches of Europe toward the end of the century.

By that time, the world had undergone profound changes:

  • In Europe, the dominance of Great Britain and France had been eclipsed by a rapidly modernizing Germany.
  • Austria-Hungary was struggling to survive as a multinational empire.
  • Russia was facing stresses of inadequate modernization as other nations moved ahead.
  • The United States and Japan were beginning to enter into an emerging balance of world power.
  • Almost all of Africa and much of Asia had been gobbled up in a final spasm of imperialist expansions.

Moreover, the European great powers, organized in alliances and enmeshed in an arms race, were confronting increasingly dangerous international crises.

While more people in Europe were living better than ever before, Europe had become a very dangerous place—soon to erupt in a war more brutal than any the world had ever seen.

Enjoy an Ambitious Look at a Much-Pondered Subject

In exploring the evolution of the environment that ultimately made World War I possible, Professor Weiner has crafted a very ambitious course, covering a vast range of material. He repeatedly steps back from "on-the-ground" events to clarify historical trends or patterns.

For example, he concentrates on political and diplomatic moves of the great powers—Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Italy—while always discussing them in the context of the deeper economic, social, and cultural forces at work. He doesn't merely offer you a chess position from which the next move is made; he lets you know how and why the various pieces have come to be arrayed the way they are, and how they reflect the impact of some of history's most significant names:

  • Napoleon Bonaparte, whose massive legacy, though uneven, includes spreading the ideas of the French Revolution, such as freedom of religion and equality before the law, everywhere his soldiers marched
  • Napoleon III, whose mixed reviews include one historian's recognition that he was "unique among dictators in ending his career with a government that provided his country with more freedom than the government he started with"
  • Klemens von Metternich, the shrewd Austrian foreign minister who spoke for conservative, monarchical Europe during the last three decades of the Age of Revolution
  • Otto von Bismarck, the German chancellor who was architect of both Germany's unification and a system of alliances that ultimately led to her downfall
  • Kaiser Wilhelm II, the brash young kaiser with a "special knack" for political and diplomatic gaffes
  • Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish French Army captain unjustly accused of espionage and whose ordeal inspired modern Zionism
  • Karl Marx, the German intellectual whose ideas about a radical new philosophy found fertile ground on a continent where industrial modernization was creating new disruptions and resentments
  • Count Camillo di Cavour, the brilliant Prime Minister of Piedmont-Sardinia whose tragic early death left imperfect the unified Italy he helped to create
  • William Gladstone, the moralist humanitarian and Prime Minister who helped democratize Great Britain.

An Unflinching Look at Some of History's Major Players

These historical figures join with many others in a presentation that is unfailingly interesting and provocative, with Professor Weiner often quite frank, although fair, in his assessment of individuals and their decisions. This course can easily be divided into four major teaching segments.

After a short orientation to the Ancien Regime which offers a basis of comparison to the dramatically different world that was to come, Dr. Weiner's organizational plan begins with the period from 1789 to 1848 that has come to be known as the Age of Revolution.

Professor Weiner's second major section covers the period from the repression of the 1848 Revolutions until the unification of Germany in 1870–71.

Professor Weiner begins the third section with a look at the time European power was at its zenith, from 1870–1914. This power was felt on economic, military, political, and diplomatic levels throughout the world.

The final segment of the course covers the developments in European diplomacy that led to World War I, as well as the war's dramatic impact.

As the course—and Europe—move closer to the catastrophe of World War I, Professor Weiner narrows the focus again. He presents several case studies of the great powers in the decades leading up to the conflict, including Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and, as he describes it, "the cauldron that was Russia, Turkey, and the Balkans."

The Devastating Impact

World War I was punctuated by a series of battles of industrial slaughter, such as Verdun, the Somme, the Nivelle Offensive, and the final German thrusts in the West in the spring of 1918. More than nine million combatants perished, including more than half of the French men who were between the ages of 20 and 32 when the war began in 1914.

Concluding lectures examine not only the major events of the war but also the its impact on contemporaries and the following generation, and how it set the stage for World War II.

Although Lenin, Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler were neither inevitable nor likely candidates for national leadership in prewar Europe, they were rooted in their national cultures, children of their age, and Dr. Weiner attempts to answer the question: What had gone wrong?

Hide Full Description
36 lectures
 |  30 minutes each
Year Released: 2005
  • 1
    The Long 19th Century
    This lecture discusses the reasons for extending the "century" to include the points in time when the masses and modern nationalism first presented themselves in Europe's most powerful country to the collapse of the 19th-century Eurocentric world order. x
  • 2
    The Legacy of the Past—The Old Regime
    What was Europe like on the eve of the French Revolution? We discuss how the structures of a changing medieval society were further challenged by economic, social, and cultural forces, even before the more profound agrarian and industrial revolutions to come. x
  • 3
    The Age of Revolution, 1789–1848
    This lecture focuses on the landmark analyses of mid-20th century Marxist historian Eric J. Hobsbawm to explain how the French and Industrial Revolutions served as midwives to modern European history and, via the umbilical cord of European imperialism, modern world history. x
  • 4
    The French Revolution
    Although scholars debate the causes of the French Revolution, all agree that it helped determine the political vocabulary, expectations, and myths of 19th-century Europe as it persisted for at least 10 years in Europe's most powerful state, spreading far and wide "in the knapsacks of French soldiers." x
  • 5
    The Napoleonic Era, 1799–1815
    An adventurer of enormous talents and capacity for work and intrigue, Napoleon Bonaparte dominates Europe's historical imagination like no one until Adolf Hitler, representing much that was best in his era, even though his legacy is marred by his monumental ego and penchant for conquest. x
  • 6
    The First Industrial Revolution, 1760–1850
    The Industrial Revolution becomes the main force propelling Europe's modernization and urbanization, gradually transforming much of Britain's urban landscape over several generations until by 1850 it is the workshop of the world, with a greater productivity than the rest of Europe combined. x
  • 7
    The Era of Metternich, 1815–1848
    We examine an era characterized by tensions between the forces of order and the forces of change. Though the former—represented by Austrian Prince Clemens von Metternich—generally dominates, more liberal, constitutional worlds emerge in Britain and in France, though by far different means. x
  • 8
    The Revolutions of 1848
    Sparked by an "unintended" revolution in Paris, outbreaks involving middle class elements, workers, and artisans erupt in urban areas in the Germanic states, the Austrian Empire, and the Italian states, leading to a temporary collapse of established authority and hasty concessions. x
  • 9
    Europe, 1850–1871—An Overview
    Dashed expectations combine with expanding urban industrial civilization to usher in a new age of realpolitik and a new balance of power. Though an era of remarkable scientific, economic, and urban advancement, it is also marked by nationalist and class-based antagonism, Social Darwinism, and "modern" racist thought. x
  • 10
    The Crimean War, 1853–1856
    This lecture examines what is sometimes considered the most senseless of Europe's 19th-century wars—a conflict that makes possible the structural changes Europe will experience from the late 1850s through the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–1871. x
  • 11
    From Napoleon to Napoleon—France, 1815–1852
    More than the American Revolution, the French Revolution left a legacy of debris-disputed claims of legitimacy, disputed rights, and grievances. This lecture examines the tumultuous era between the defeat of Napoleon and the rise of his fascinating and enigmatic nephew, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. x
  • 12
    Napoleon III—An Evaluation
    Napoleon III faced the daunting task of establishing legitimacy and creating a liberal, constitutional monarchy in a bitterly divided France and a Europe threatened by his name. Ruling longer than any 19th-century French monarch, Napoleon III's legacy is marred by France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. x
  • 13
    Italy on the Eve—An Overview
    The final structure of the Italian nation, achieved when Italy occupied Rome in 1870, was far from what the major players had anticipated. This lecture paves the way for understanding the disappointing results of "unification" by analyzing the plight of Italy in 1848. x
  • 14
    Cavour and Napoleon III—“Unifying” Italy
    The developments that set "unification" into motion are instigated by Piedmontese minister Count Camillo di Cavour and Napoleon III. But Cavour's death leaves the final process of creating the new nation to lesser talents, with problematic results. x
  • 15
    Germany on the Eve
    This lecture examines the situation before the forging of the German Empire by the powerful Prussian statesman, Otto Von Bismarck—a situation even more complex than that faced by Italy. x
  • 16
    Age of Bismarck—Creating the German Empire
    A believer in absolutist power and aristocratic ascendancy, Bismarck masters the forces of the age, using military success, nationalist pride, economic/industrial expansion, and astute political manipulation to create a Prussian-dominated German Empire he would guide until his dismissal in 1890, a victim of the irresponsible structure he had created. x
  • 17
    The British Way
    This lecture examines how Great Britain's political, economic, and social structure allowed it to follow a unique path to political and economic modernization, weathering many of the storms afflicting other great powers—though not always without internal issues. x
  • 18
    The Russian Experience, 1789–1881
    Russia begins the "long 19th century" with little stimuli for modernization. It is oversized and still expanding, overwhelmingly agrarian with primitive transportation and communication systems, and dominated by a divine right absolutist monarchy that is allied with a privileged aristocracy. This lecture examines Russia's transition. x
  • 19
    The Apogee of Europe, 1870–1914
    During an age of massive change and material growth, there are crucial shifts in emphasis: nationalism, Social Darwinism, racism, industrialism, European imperialism, a decline in the "liberal" spirit. We also discuss the rise of modernist philosophies exemplified by such greats as Nietzsche, Freud, Bergson, and Sorel. x
  • 20
    The Industrialization of Europe
    The Second Industrial Revolution brings about greater change than any prior era. New forms of power, technology, and business organization, along with the possibilities brought by revolutions in transportation, communications, and education, make this transformation synonymous with urban civilization. x
  • 21
    The Socialist Response
    Although industrial, urban civilization brings growing democratization and middle-class opportunity, it is also an era of expanding Socialist visions and unionism. The modern urban proletariat is now real, recognized even by Bismarck. This lecture examines the impact of this new reality. x
  • 22
    The Longest Hatred—European Anti-Semitism
    This lecture examines what one historian has called "the longest hatred," a deeply embedded and changing element of Europe's culture, especially at the end of the 19th century, when it developed into new political and racial forms, notably in Central and Western Europe. x
  • 23
    England, 1868–1914—Liberalism to Democracy
    Although England's industrial dominance is eclipsed by Germany and the United States on the eve of World War I, and its extended empire has become a source of strain as well as pride, the English response to industrial society is still more successful than that of the other European powers. x
  • 24
    The Third Republic—France, 1870–1914
    Emerging from the Franco-Prussian War and the trauma of a civil war, the Third Republic struggles to consolidate itself and then cope with a progressively harsher series of crises that culminate in the Dreyfus Affair, an event so profound it is sometimes called simply "The Affair." x
  • 25
    Bismarckian and Wilhelminian Germany
    Bismarck's domestic policies attempt every solution besides sharing real power. When he is fired by the brash new kaiser, the problematic forces Bismarck had been able to monitor—militarism, imperialism, and more extreme and racialist nationalism—begin to spiral out of control. x
  • 26
    Flawed States—Austria-Hungary and Italy
    Although the Austro-Hungarian Empire and flawed Italian state did not have much in common, both were examples of "failed" nation-states at the end of the century. This lecture examines the reasons why, and the conditions in both nations during the formative years of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. x
  • 27
    Russia, Turkey, and the Balkans
    This lecture examines the circumstances that ultimately lead Russia to humiliating defeat and the near-overthrow of the regime during the Russo-Japanese War, and how this, in turn, leads nationalists to focus their attention on the Balkans, where the seeds of disaster are planted. x
  • 28
    Bismarck Dominates Europe, 1870–1890
    This lecture examines Bismarck's dominance of Europe's diplomatic agenda as he constructs a complex system of defensive alliances that prove a dangerous legacy for later German leaders lacking in his genius, sense of proportion, and respect for the balance of power. x
  • 29
    The “New” Imperialism
    European imperialism from the 1880s until about 1905 is remarkable for its intensity, tone, scope, and impact. It is spurred on, sometimes haphazardly, by national pride, Social Darwinian and racial assumptions, the search for economic growth and strategic security, Christian conscience, human adventure, and greed. x
  • 30
    The Diplomacy of Imperialism, 1890–1907
    This lecture examines the eventual unraveling of the Bismarckian system of alliances after his dismissal by Kaiser Wilhelm, culminating in the realization of Bismarck's worst nightmare: Germany surrounded by a number of powerful countries and tightly tied to an unstable Austria-Hungary. x
  • 31
    Europe in Crisis, 1908–1914—Outbreak of War
    A complex web of events, alliances, and crises move Europe closer to the brink of war. Eventually all of the powers focus on diplomatic and military preparedness, and patience is in short supply. x
  • 32
    The Origins of World War I
    One of the most meticulously studied topics in all of modern history: the causes of World War I. This lecture examines how a seemingly local conflict could degenerate into the greatest tragedy in modern European history. x
  • 33
    The Great War—A Military Overview
    This lecture looks at the immediate and long-term impact of the war—the prism through which most of the 20th century passed—with emphasis on the critical battles and military decisions that determined its outcome and best represent its nature and impact. x
  • 34
    The Home Front During Total War
    Once the First Battle of the Marne determined that Germany would not win World War I quickly, and combatants realized the war would consume greater quantities of resources than imaginable, the "war behind the war" became as decisive as the one on battlefield, leaving an indelible imprint on the postwar generation. x
  • 35
    The Impact of World War I—New World Disorder
    Gauging the impact of World War I is difficult: It accelerated profound and global changes, many of which are still "in process" today. World War I was to the 20th century what the French and Industrial Revolutions were to the 19th. x
  • 36
    Looking Back, Thinking Ahead
    This lecture summarizes the impact of the "long 19th century." It was, despite its tragedies, a time of progress and change, and brought to fruition many of the promises and hopes of both the French and Industrial Revolutions. x

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Your professor

Robert I. Weiner

About Your Professor

Robert I. Weiner, Ph.D.
Lafayette College
Dr. Robert I. Weiner is the Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Professor of History at Lafayette College. He earned his B.A. from Temple University and a Hebrew teaching certificate from Gratz Hebrew College. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers University. Since joining the faculty of Lafayette College in 1969, Professor Weiner has taught a wide range of courses in the fields of Modern European History and Modern Jewish...
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Rated 3.6 out of 5 by 59 reviewers.
Rated 5 out of 5 by Good Overview I enjoyed this course and learned a lot.. It was a broad overview of the century that made the 20th century what it was. The professor extended the 19th century into World War I, which he felt the 19th century led to. The sequence of shifting alliances that led to the war were made clear. I learned a lot about Bismarck, less about Napoleon III. October 26, 2015
Rated 3 out of 5 by a disappointment... I’ve listened to between 20 and 25 TC courses, and this was the most disappointing. There was a lot of material to cover, and organizing/compartmentalizing all of it—let alone getting the job done in 36 half-hour chunks—must have been quite a challenge. Whether or not it was done well, however, remains very difficult to say, in large measure owing to the shockingly poor delivery of the professor. Imagine something you know by heart, or at least well: the opening to the Declaration of Independence, the Lord’s Prayer, a monologue from a favorite movie or play. Now imagine some of the words smashed together in a breathless race, and others with meaningless and pregnant pauses, interspersed with misplaced stress and emphasis. Throw in irregular syntax and a tendency to repeat. It quickly becomes unintelligible, even to the informed and careful listener. I am frankly surprised that this presenter attracted the attention of the TC in the first place, or made the cut in the second place. I don’t want to sink to ad hominem attacks against poor Prof. Weiner, but it really is his poor speaking skills that leaves this one dead in the water. I see other reviewers have noted this, so I will confine myself to points others have not raised. He doesn’t exactly make jokes, but seems to think odd things are funny. He never, ever uses the words “lesson(s)” or “course”: instead he says “comments,” “series of comments,” “encounters,” and “engagements”—which is weird. He starts off odd-numbered lectures with “Good morning!” (and often says “As we saw yesterday...”) and even-numbered ones with “Good afternoon!” (and often says “As we saw this morning...”)—this is quaint and distracting, and I’m surprised the TC didn’t discourage it. (Granted: a few others have done, this from time, but it seems worse here.) He does not plan his sentences before launching into them, and regularly starts and finishes them the same way: e.g. “As we saw in a previous set of engagements [long pause], Bismarck was hardly a friends to the liberal [long pause], as we saw in a previous set of engagements” or “Throughout the 19th century... nationalism was a force to be reckoned with... in the 19th century.” He talks too much about his own experience as a researcher/student. This has a place (e.g. another TC presenter, Robert Bucholz, does it quite effectively: listeners feel privileged to get an “insider’s view”), but when Weiner does it, it comes across almost like, “Hey! I went to graduate school! I have a degree! I’ve read some stuff and dipped into the archives!” He also makes occasional small mistakes. Probably most of these are simple slips, but a few of them are clearly instances of his being misinformed (e.g. he identifies William Gladstone as a nonconformist rather than an Anglican). Perhaps we should be indulgent, however: I am myself a university professor in History, and I shudder to think of the errors I know I occasionally make when I teach general surveys and drift out of my own fields of expertise. That said, I really do not recommend the course, unless you really, really want to learn the material or really, really need to know the material. Even then, I don’t think Robert Weiner will be the most effective vehicle for learning it. He seems like a nice guy, but these lectures so difficult to get through. And a final hint/suggestion: for TC customers who listen rather than watch, try adjusting your audio features to speed these lectures up a bit. I set mine to 1.2x normal speed. You might even be able to get away with 1.3x or 1.4x. This will minimize the impact of the awkward delivery (but also really make you wonder how slow the awkward pauses must seem if you listen at normal speed). September 18, 2015
Rated 4 out of 5 by Gets better as it goes. Early on in this course, I felt the professor assumed too much knowledge of the history he was talking about, especially the French Revolution and Napoleon. He also had an annoying tendency to say things like, "...and a number of other factors.." without listing any. However, as the course went on, it got better and better. The last third or so and especially the final lectures were worth taking the course for. His setting the picture for WWI and all the interesting history around it was really well done, informative, and interesting. His own enthusiasm seemed to pick up in this part of the course like this was was he really liked talking about. August 27, 2015
Rated 5 out of 5 by Very Informative, Superbly Taught Some of the reviews previously posted on this course -- complaining about the confusing presentation of the subject matter or the manner of the lecturer's approach -- had made me, frankly, a little apprehensive about purchasing this course, despite my intense interest in this critical period of history. Instead, once I began watching it, I found myself entranced by Professor Weiner's knowledge and SUPERB presentation skills. The man, simply put, is an excellent teacher, and one whom I wish I knew personally. Because of my own interest in this period, I had previously read all of the books in the "Rise of Modern Europe" series from the beginning of the 18th century to the immediate aftermath of World War II and was, therefore, prepared for how complicated -- and intricately intertwined -- were the developments covered by this course. For this very reason I cannot imagine how anyone could have more clearly -- and successfully -- presented this material than has Professor Weiner. Because he combines thematic material -- for example, the impact of the First Industrial Revolution -- with material and cultural developments both within nations and among them, Dr. Weiner culls the interconnecting essentials from it all to present an informative and intriguingly entertaining course on a period which so shaped our modern world. The course is also important, not least of which because it shows how current tensions are directly related to unresolved problems stretching back to the "long 19th century." The First World War -- a tragic event that need not have happened -- both destroyed much of European civilization's accomplishments and so destabilized nations and peoples that we are still struggling with the aftermath today. The Middle East as it is today, for example, source of so much ongoing bloodshed, is an unintended consequence of both the destruction of the Ottoman Empire and the creation of nation-states whose territorial boundaries were rather arbitrarily drawn by the victors of the Great War. And the "Peace of Versailles" was less a true peace than an imposed draconian settlement, the terms of which guaranteed resentment and instability in post-war Germany. Just as developments in the closing decades of the 19th century made the First World War likely, though not inevitable, so also did the imposed peace following that war make World War II much more likely than not. And as the slaughters of the 1990s in Serbia and Bosnia revealed, nationalist tensions within the Balkans that led to the assassination of the Austro-Hungarian Empires' Arch-Duke Ferdinand -- the immediate spark for W.W. I -- continue to ferment even today. Much has, indeed, changed since the end of that Great War. But it is astounding how much the nationalistic ideology, divisive politics, and heightened militarism of those days remains. For all who hope for a more peaceful future for our children, the more one understands -- and takes to heart -- this critical period of Europe, the more one will be able to act in order to counter the divisive hatreds that still remain in human hearts. I highly recommend this course! May 18, 2015
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