Europe

Maria Theresa: The Habsburg empress in her time by Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger, translated by Robert Savage

by
June 2022, no. 443

Few Australians today will have heard of the Empress Maria Theresa (1717–80). And yet this queen of Hungary and Bohemia, archduchess of Austria, ruler of Mantua and Milan, who was also grand duchess of Tuscany and Holy Roman Empress by marriage, bestrode the eighteenth-century stage like a dumpy colossus. The mother of some sixteen children, she styled herself as matriarch for a nation, while the marriages she arranged for her children saw her emerge as a Queen Victoria-like figure: the central node in contemporary Europe’s game of thrones. 

... (read more)

In the time before festivals, writers used to attend congresses to perform their role as ‘the unacknowledged legislators of the world’ in Shelley’s fine phrase. A who’s who of literary leftists and liberals gathered in Paris for the First International Congress of  Writers for the Defense of Culture in 1935, in solidarity against the rise of fascism across Europe. Nettie Palmer was a member of the Australian delegation. She was pleased to spend time there with her younger compatriot Christina Stead, who was living in London. Both writers were internationalists, but at different points on a spectrum.

... (read more)

Histories of the origins of the idea of ‘Europe’ have probed the legacies of the Roman Empire, the concept of western Christendom, and the power of the ‘republic of letters’ in the dissemination of ‘Enlightenment’ ideas, culminating in the cosmopolitanism of the early years of the French Revolution. Anthony Pagden is well aware of this heritage but has decided to begin his own study with Napoleon. It seems a strange choice, since the emperor’s European dream was always of a French imperium, whatever the toll in lives; but it does serve to highlight the later triumph of the European Union in securing continental peace.

... (read more)

How to Democratize Europe by Stéphanie Hennette et al.

by
December 2019, no. 417

The import of this book is best summed up by pinching one of its section headings: ‘another Europe is possible’. In this other Europe, this better one, the ‘democratic deficit’ that has bedevilled the European project from the outset has finally found a satisfactory resolution. A dream? Not at all. For the authors of this book, it is a ‘realistic utopia’, fully achievable if the right measures are taken. All that is needed is an agreement on a treaty and the dismantling of a Trojan Horse. 

... (read more)

Norman Davies illustrates the literary life available to a score or so of living historians whose works at one time or another made the bestseller lists. Like Simon Schama, Niall Ferguson, and Paul Kennedy, he occupies a place in a Valhalla where the normal rules don’t apply. Instead of waiting nervously for publishers to give thumbs up to a cherished manuscript, agents offer large advances, wide publicity, and – best of all – a huge canvas on which to paint. Of course, the great gulf that separates such stars from hungry hacks yawns in many fields. Novelists like Toni Morrison or Julian Barnes, artists like Anselm Kiefer or Damien Hirst, architects like Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry enjoy similar advantages. Among the most striking privileges for historians in the pantheon is exemption from the usual 100,000-word limit. Davies can use as many pages as he pleases. The result is Vanished Kingdoms, which, at 847 pages, stands about as tall as a stack of five ordinary monographs. Apart from making it an unlikely book at bedtime, the question arises as to whether it is five times as good. Or has Davies drifted lazily into the category of ‘overweight or obese’?

... (read more)