In this book, Charles Tilly reinterprets the last five centuries of European history, a period characterized by war, revolt and contention, by the rise and struggles of states and empires, and by urbanization, enrichment and industrialization. His focus is on revolutions, their origins in ambition and discontent, and the variability of their outcomes over time and according to place, politics and culture. He seeks an understanding of revolutionary processes grounded in the contingencies of circumstance, and to show the place of the great revolutions in the long-term history of Europe and the world at large.
The book opens with a discussion of the nature of revolution and of the questions the author will address. It continues with a sketch of political and social change in Europe between 1492 and the present. Succeeding chapters examine and compare the causes and outcomes of revolutionary situations in the Low Countries, Iberia and the Balkans (chapter 3); in the British Isles, particularly in the seventeenth century (chapter 4); in France, especially from 1750 (chapter 5); and in Russia, notably in the twentieth century (chapter 6).
In the concluding chapter the author contrasts the recent national revolutions in Central and Eastern Europe with the supranational movements in the European Community. He argues that, despite some indications to the contrary, a renascence of individual cultures is likely to be accommodated by the decline of revolutionary nationalism – in itself a revolutionary process, and one that will profoundly affect the future of Europe.
The author is University Distinguished Professor at the New York School for Social Research in New York, where he directs the Center for Studies of Social Change. His work focuses on social change and collective action, especially in Western Europe since 1500. His recent books include The Contentious French (Harvard University Press, 1986) and Coercion, Capital, and European States (Blackwell, 1989; second paperback edition 1992). He is currently working on conflict in Great Britain from 1750 to 1840, and on cities and states in Europe over the last one thousand years.