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How did the world of nation-states come about? What happened to the world of empires that preceded it? How did the transition take place and how inevitable was it? These may seem (and indeed are) old questions.
Work on the European revolutions of 1848 has rolled out at an accelerated rate since their 150th anniversary two decades ago. Much of this newer research has looked at previously unheralded social and cultural dimensions of the revolutionary conjuncture, but politics has remained, necessarily, at the centre of the literature.
The emergence of racial classification in conjunction with the Enlightenment Science of Man in the 18th century is a well-known chapter in the history of European ideas. Far less understood are the ways in which this scientific project carried into the 19th and 20th centuries, the investigation of which is Richard McMahon’s purpose in The Races of Europe.
Exile has long been central to our understanding of certain Early Modern topics. The flight of English Protestants, and then Catholics, to the Continent in the 16th century, or the exodus of Huguenots (many to England and Ireland) after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in the 17th, are perhaps the best known examples to UK audiences.
Linda Colley's Britons has enjoyed a long afterlife. Her 1992 volume has become a key historiographical battleground for long-18th-century British historians. 'Four Nations' scholars have tested (and for the most part rejected) the British unity that Colley argued was forged in this period (1), while those of England have remained just as sceptical.
The literature on the role of the French as ‘other’ in the formation of a British national identity in the eighteenth century is probably not as rich as many readers might think.(1) Indeed, the literature on French Anglophobia seems a little more sustained.(2) Semmel’s work, which looks at the impact of Napoleon on British politi
In February 1998 the Centre for European Research at University College London and the German Historical Institute in London organised a conference on the changing meanings of 1848. This conference was held to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the 1848 revolutions.