R. J. W. Evans is a Fellow of Oriel College and Regius Professor of History Emeritus at Oxford. His books include Austria, Hungary, and the Habsburgs: Central Europe, c. 1683–1867.
 (January 2016)

A New Vision of Germany

A parade on the first ‘Day of German Art,’ marking the opening of the first ‘Great German Art Exhibition’ of works by artists approved by the Nazi regime, Munich, July 18, 1937
This is a book about the Germans and their past. But it is also a distinctly British book. Britain has unfinished business with the history of Germany in a way other countries seem no longer to have, even those pitted against it more desperately through twentieth-century wars and aggression. For …

How They Hunted Down Liberals

‘Proclamation of the French Republic’; caricature by Johann Christian Schoeller, February 1848
In the years after the Congress of Vienna, whose final act was signed almost exactly two centuries ago, on June 9, 1815, the flamboyant English Romantic poet Lord Byron had more followers across Europe than any of his contemporaries. Quite a few of them followed him literally: he was being …

‘The Greatest Catastrophe the World Has Seen’

John Singer Sargent: Gassed, 1919
June 28, 1914, Sarajevo, Bosnia. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the multinational Habsburg realms, resplendent in the dress uniform of an Austrian cavalry general, but also absurd in his plumed headdress, was shot at close range by Gavrilo Princip, a local student dropout obsessed with the Serbian national cause. Sarajevo was one of history’s most purple passages: there was the drama of bungled security and hamfisted conspiracy; spectacle and gore; the play of intention and chance; the clash of generations and civilizations, of the old monarchical Europe and the modern terrorist cell.

In the Lost World of East Prussia

Marienburg Castle, the former headquarters of the Teutonic Order, Marienburg, East Prussia, 1928. The castle, in what is now Poland, was damaged significantly during World War II, but has since been mostly reconstructed.
German history has a Stunde Null, a zero hour. It applies to the capitulation at midnight on May 8, 1945, or more generally to the end of World War II. Germans experienced the unconditional surrender of the National Socialist state amid unprecedented destruction of the existing built environment, political system, …

The Gambler in Blood and Iron

Otto von Bismarck with his dogs, Tyras II and Rebecca, July 1891
Life with Otto von Bismarck could be very uncomfortable, even for those on his own side. Shortly after being appointed premier of Prussia in 1862, with a brief to defend monarch and army against an overwhelming liberal majority in parliament, he gave a speech that included the infamous claim that …

The Most Dynamic Ruler

Emperor Joseph II of Austria; painting by Joseph Hickel, 1771
Within a twenty-year span during the late eighteenth century, two revolutions, one in the North American colonies, the other in France, unleashed the two most powerful forces of our contemporary world: on one hand, the liberal and libertarian ideas that would inexorably lead to democratic ones; on the other hand, …

Mighty Prussia: Rise and Fall

Christopher Clark begins his enthralling, shrewd, and sparkling narrative at the end, with one of the two things most people know about Prussia: that it no longer exists. In February 1947 the Allied powers issued a formal decree abolishing the Prussian state, in the aftermath of the calamitous events provoked …

The Magic of Bohemia

Exactly 150 years ago, Europe had just experienced its first continent-wide revolutions. The intense unrest of 1848, surfacing simultaneously in so many states, brought with it a new political slogan which has since proved the most powerful known to man. What happened in 1848 was called the “springtime of nations.” …

Doing the Continental

Few books command a major field for sixty years. Herbert Albert Laurens Fisher’s long History of Europe, first published in 1935, was one such. It was a book with authority, not least because the writer had been minister of education in Britain, the man who introduced state scholarships to allow …

Kings and the Queen of the Arts

Serious art history is a very difficult subject, for it must marry aesthetic with historical understanding. Here are books by experts who have greatly contributed in recent years to that double purpose. Jonathan Brown is known mainly for his work on Spanish painting in the Baroque period, while Thomas Kaufmann …

‘A Fair and Tranquil Land’

Serious general histories of Wales are rare enough. For such a work to be published first in the Welsh language, and only later in English, is unheard of. Thus in its very conception John Davies’s book makes a kind of statement. Those versed in European historiography may be reminded of …

The Sun Also Sets

Empires are seriously out of fashion. Insofar as they are taken to be a superior kind of monarchy, then they have shared the fate of that institution in the contemporary world. More abhorrent nowadays is the stronger, broader notion of empire as involving suzerainty over a range of diverse dominions.

Unwarlike Warriors

Among the fighting forces of the great powers in old Europe, the Austrian army had two distinguishing qualities: the magnificence of its uniforms and the comprehensiveness of its defeats. Today’s War Museum in Vienna is housed in the huge neo-Byzantine Arsenal building, itself a stunning piece of military ostentation. In …

Virtuoso

In 1957 H.R. Trevor-Roper, the newly appointed and controversial Regius Professor of Modern History at Oxford, published a collection of short reviews and reflections that elegantly illuminated aspects of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England and Europe. A decade later he offered a further collection on similar lines, only the chapters were …