HS EU19 01 – History of Europe in the XIX Century, Introduction

Just another WordPress site

HS EU19 01 – History of Europe in the XIX Century, Introduction

good evening viewer who have followed so far the series of historical sketches may perhaps perhaps be surprised that we have changed the title of the series from from historical sketches to the history history of Europe in the 19th century and this is not it’s not a change in the so called philosophy of the series which is the philosophy of the series that is is to offer a selection a selection of events and characters who have who have had a significant influence on the age on the age when they lived selection of course supplemented by factual or anecdotal reference to the life to the life of some of the protagonists with this new distinct series however the focus the focus is specifically on the on the 19th century now some historians have written about the last century the 20th already rendered a distant by the inaudible and the noiseless foot of time as a Shakespeare would say and they called it the short century short century and others have called it the long century and and similar contrasting attributes have been used to describe the history of the 19th century which is why we will dedicate the first this first installment of the history of Europe not directly to the events the protagonists the people of the of the 19th century but rather rather we will talk about the characteristics at least at least some of them that make history controversial characteristics or aspects if you like that ought to be ought to be kept in mind when dealing with a subject so easy to understand to to understand in principle after all history is simply what what happened in the past and yet the subject becomes quite elusive when we begin even mildly to dig to dig beneath the surface of the first ideas that come to mind that come to mind when we use the word history however given given the title of this new series within the series I will at least mention the main themes we will be dealing with in the next episodes named Lincoln apollyon de Botton upon a Napoleonic adventure and its glory its crash and its aftermath the attempt to restore the old world order of the famous Congress of Vienna in 1815 the birth of the nationalist movements across Europe the end of absolute monarchy chol rule with the establishment of the Constitution’s in the newly formed nations throughout Europe the growth of these of the of the class struggle and the attempt to deal with it that is how national liberal revolutions acted as a kind of conduit conduit for attempts at social revolutions and and the counter revolutions the unification of Germany into an empire the complex the complex international equilibrium arising out of so many new independent and ambition nations at the end of the century and finally and finally the conditions that brought about were were one but as I said let’s consider the ingredients that convert such a simple concept as history into a branch into a branch of knowledge in its own right with still with with its own schools colleges universities practitioners researchers teachers writers and and and followers now if you the viewer happen to be a historian a historian already some of the ideas we will talk about here will be familiar to you but even so as we as as we will delve into the history of Europe proper you may disagree with some of the conclusions and and and your potential disagreement will be perfectly justified in fact when we agree or disagree about a historical judgment or a historical conclusion we do not we do so not necessarily because we know more about what happened in in that particular instance but because our

interpretation of the event reflects our current ideology or more in general our world view which which brings us to say that when we when we attempt to answer the question what is history our answer consciously or unconsciously reflects our own position in time and form parts part of our answer to a broader question namely what view we take of society and what we do we take of this of the time in general time in when we leave when we live consider for example this book that I have here which is Napoleon for and against it was written about seventy years ago and he collects different historians opinions about Napoleon the first and as a title of the book implies half of the historians agree that Napoleon was a genius and did a lot of good for France and and and for mankind in general as he embodied he embodied the spirit of the French Revolution for the other half Napoleon was but an instrument an instrument of the devil and the world would be a much better place if he had if he had never been born yet the facts about Napoleon are well-known and in the documentation about his life and his exploits is extensive and and reliable but even if more documents were were were to be found striking the striking dichotomy in judgment would remain the same we can almost be sure about that now I said that historical judgments about people and events are a function or a function of the ideology of him who who passes the judgment is this is this the only criterion then not necessarily and here is an example expressed in verses and the point is the is the English novelist poet and playwright Thomas Hardy the romantic writer who lived most of his life in the 19th century and who made the English Wessex countryside popular his name will be familiar will be familiar to our viewers as some of his novels have been turned into masterpiece theater production on the television in one of the plays one character appropriately appropriately called spit called the spirits innocence he says my argument is that war makes rattling good history but peace is poor reading so I backed Bonaparte for the reason that he will give pleasure to posterity transported to our present day that would be a good argument to favor for example the war in Iraq with the almost 5000 dead American soldiers very many wounded often left to die with horrible suffering or committing suicide not to count the 1 million plus Iraqis killed for being guilty guilty of for living of where they were born but war as Thomas Hardy said makes rattling rattling good history now let’s go back to our consideration we can safely conclude that a fact that other facts base history history Bazin fact is an illusion and we can quote the Italian playwright Pirandello who said that a fact is like a sack it won’t stand up have put something in it or or if we wish to be even more extreme we can we can quote the philosopher Nietzsche who said that there are no facts but only interpretations which is which is one of the reasons why history does not read like the yellow pages where instead instead of the name and the address of the commercial concerns there should be or there are or should be the dates of Wars battles intrigues revolts revolutions and and and major players thereof which is not to diminish the importance of the yellow pages of history in fact just to quote an example historian Ludovico moratoria lived between 74 1744 and 1749 wrote the annals of italian history in 12 volumes from the birth of christ to his days and for each of these seventeen hundred and forty-nine years under that he reviewed that is an accurate list of everything

that happened or has been known to happen in that particular year facts or in this case annals are invaluable as a reference of course because if you are interested or if you are or or or if you become interested in knowing more about a certain period of history or for the matter a nation or a people soon you will be dealing with a multitude of characters events and anecdotes to the point of losing of losing your way so to speak and and at that moment it is good to have a place where you can find dates milestones battles Wars treaties in other words it’s good to have some kind of yellow pages yellow pages of history and instance a recent instance of the influence of historical interpretation is what happened with the book well known book the people’s history of the United States by Howard Zinn who died in 2010 Xin has been ostracized ostracized maligned and vilified and for example the former governor of governor of Indiana mitch Daniels who is now president by the way of Purdue University did even tried to remove the book from all the schools of the state and when Zinn died said this terrible anti-american academic has finally passed away and of the book he said this crap should not be accepted for any credit by the state but why why you I asked and you can answer yourself Howard Zinn offered a view of American history contrary to the canons considered proper in this which is which is our time he started with Christopher Christopher Columbus rather and they celebrated discovery discovery of the new world the legend and the myths associated with it if reference is also made in in the book reference is made to Bartolome de las casas who was the spanish priest who was horrified and who documented the barbaric treatment of the natives by the so called conquest odorous the conquerors and regrettably for me to daniels hours in did not just offer theories he documented if you like he documented what what what what he said by by quotations from the original authors and here is for example what father de las casas said yet into the sheepfold unto this land of meek outcasts there came some Spaniards who immediately behaved like ravening wild beasts wolves tigers or Lions that had been starved for many days killing terrorizing afflicting torturing and destroying the natives the native peoples doing all this with the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty never seen or heard before and to such a degree that this island of hispaniola which by the way is today occupied by the by by the Dominican Republic and Haiti once so populous having a population that is tomato to be more than three millions has now a population of barely two hundred persons their reason the reason for killing and destroying is such an infinite number of souls is that the Christians have an ultimate aim which is to acquire gold and to swell themselves with riches in a very brief time and thus rise to a high estate that is disproportionate to their merit and it should be kept in mind their insatiable greed and ambition the greatest ever seen in the world is the cause of their villainous and also these lands are so rich and felicitous the natives people the native people so meek and patient so easy to subject that our Spaniards have no more considerations for them than beasts no more not for the thanked for thanks be to God have they have treated beasts with some respect I should say instead instead like extra mint on the public squares so went Bartolome de las casas but why why Daniels Dean of a famous university should so obviously object to academic freedom worse object to the popularization of the observations of people from the past of America why

should he after all there is nothing scandalous brilliant or even particularly extraordinary in bringing into evidence what some people documented about their own experiences of what for us is the past and he said we must not falsely teach American history in our books and he said to the Associated Press which may be a proposition as good as any as long as you define the meaning of words in the instance what is false and what is true and it is easy to see that in the case at hand what is false or true about American history is what Daniel says it is now Daniels couldn’t care less about what I think or what you think but in his position he well knows that the ideas inculcated or gathered in youth make the strongest impressions many of course will go through life without ever questioning what they were first taught to believe at schools including including matters about American history therefore we can quickly see the danger to the status quo which after all has historical historical being the constant goal of those who achieved the status they wish they wish to maintain in the instance the history of Dean Daniels the history he approves of is one designed not to instill potentially dangerous ideas dangerous to the status quo or in the case of Daniels the status that he himself enjoys in the same in the same vein of thought there is indeed such thing as a philosophy of history and actually the term was invented by Voltaire by Voltaire in the 18th century and philosophy of history probably is or could be a good answer to the question what is what is history history or the philosophy of it or Moya is more precisely what we think of it as we will see in the next episode the 19th century was for the intellectuals of Western Europe a comfortable period exuding confidence and optimism optimism the facts were on the whole satisfactory and the inclination to ask and answer awkward questions about questions about these facts was weak the historian of tanka for example believe that the hand of Providence could take would take care of the meaning of history if he himself as a historian took care of the facts and this confidence in the hands of Providence to make sense to make sense of history brings to mind the sentence that by Adam Smith in the 18th century hundred year before when he made reference to the magic hand of the market a concert by the way of the magic hand of the market taken out of taken out of context and horribly miss quoted to justify among among other things extreme neoliberal economics or some call it turbo capitalism indeed the liberal 19th century’s view of history had a close affinity with the economic doctrine of laissez-faire that everyone gone with his business and the hidden hand presumably of Providence would take care or will take care of universal universal harmony all things brings two brings us to several conclusions all history is a history of thought and history is the reenactment in the historians mind of the thought he is studying the history of there can be no objective or if you like unbiased history if nothing else language itself prevents the historian from being neutral take the case of Ukraine for example now center stage in the struggle for power without without going into details a historian who were to call the independent independent disks of Southeast Ukraine terrorists cannot obviously be neutral and yet interpretations as we said before the lifeblood of history a historian without facts is futile useless but facts without historians are equally dead and meaningless but then if may say if the interpretations are the lifeblood of history it follows that the

historian itself is part of history which indeed is what led thee 20th century philosopher Benedetto Croce to write that all history is contemporary history meaning meaning that history consists essentially in seeing the past through the eyes of the present and and in light of its problems and that the main work of the historian is not to a record but to evaluate and if we think about it what for he VDV if he does not if he does not evaluate how can he know what it is worth recording but I would not like to give the impression that history is all just about facts interpretation and controversies there is a lighter side of end of history and there is also if you like a cinematographic cinematographic side of history and it is the task of a good historian to bring out the facts and their interpretation in a light in a light analogous to the story of a good thriller remember of the world is a stage and all the men and women merely players they have their exits and their entrances and each man plays many parts his acts being seven ages as a Shakespeare did say let’s take an example known probably to most of the viewers the plot of The Godfather some mafia characters kill a young boy’s father in Sicily the boy barely escapes with his life and in travels to America where later he kills a prominent domineering and exploitative exploitative neighborhood neighborhood boss thus killing establishes the good father’s reputation who goes on to build a successful business and the family enterprise he then becomes embroiled in a turf war with other rivals during which he is ambushed and almost killed his aim to buy access to this of a revered family respected by the non-criminal non-criminal establishment fails his martes son takes up the challenge of restoring the fortunes or the family through a well-planned or execution of various rivals this abstract in itself would not would not prompt you to read the book or watch the movie but now what makes the good father such a success it is the interweaving of personal life stories with events that have a ring of truth or at least the ring of credibility and the historian has a similar task to select components people events accidents and anecdotes out of The Chronicles of the period that he is covering select them and try to make them interesting but there is a major difference a difference in the movie all the images or if you like the graphics are provided already made along along with the background music to create a mood suitable to the flow of events but when you read a book you become yourself the movie producer you provide the landscape out of the landscapes you may have seen in person or furnish a room based on the description of the author and that gives of their own but also that you can complete with some room that you can visualize with your imagination you create your impression of a character of what he looks like how he behaves character drawn in part again from people from your knowledge of people that may bear some resemblance to those about whom you are reading and then there is the great wealth of anecdotes that define the characters for example for example most people do not know that Napoleon was arrested and imprisoned for being a friend of Robespierre / Beshear who was perhaps somewhat too harshly associated with the terror simply because his ideas went against the good fathers of the evolution at the time and it is by mere chance that Napoleon escaped having his head cut off at the guillotine and the saucy letters that he wrote to his first wife Josephine borne a seem out of character with the imposing image offered to us by his contemporaries and painters what happened at his a second marriage for example gives us an insight on another insight on his character he the second wife was as you may recall not nonetheless than Marie Louise of Austria daughter of the Emperor of the austro-hungarian Empire the marriage had

been concluded by proxy by correspondence with who we would say today diplomatic correspondence of course Napoleon went to meet her at the border between France and the Austrian austro-hungarian Empire a wedding banquet assembling all the ambassadors and all the bigwigs and all the king’s men of the time had been prepared bigwig bigwigs and ambassadors of course of France and Austria and other countries when everything was ready to begin Napoleon and the Empress were nowhere to be seen and the delay you can imagine seemed interminable and it just so happened that Napoleon wanted to consummate the marriage before doing anything else and we may surmise that a bit of pride a bit of pride went into the occasion for he was an upstart from an obscure Corsican family who succeeded in marrying into one of the great imperial families of the time he had made it we could say in more than one way and then there is in there is also in history what Russell Bertrand Russell calls curious learning for example take the apricots they were first cultivated in China in the early days of the Han Dynasty and they were imported into India by chess by Chinese hostage of the king Kaneesha and from where they spread to Persia and they reach the Roman Empire in the first century AD the world apricot is derived from the same Latin source as the word precocious because the apricot ripens early and the letter A at the beginning of apricot was added by mistake due a false due to a false etymology and all this says Bertrand Russell makes the fruit taste sweeter this is the end of our introduction to the history of Europe in the 19th century I thank the crew as usual and as always our director Kat Iverson thank you for watching and see you next time good night you