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The Persistence of the Old Regime

The Persistence of the Old Regime: Europe to the Great War by Arno Mayer

An interesting analysis of how Europe was agricultural and ruled by nobles and kings up to World War I.

Yes, even France.  Well, not a king, but the nobles had disproportionate clout despite having no legal positions.  Elsewhere the nobles and kings were extremely powerful -- partly because they were able to co-opt the rising classes, partly because the middle classes were not united, partly because they set the standards to which the others tried to rise.

Lots of discussion and distinction about manufacturing and what was really being manufactured -- even in Great Britain and Germany, where the Industrial Revolution was the most powerful, the extent of small-scale craftsmanship was large.

Agriculture was big, and so were landowners.  In the census, Tsar Nicholas had no objections to being described as a landowner.  All the monarchs owned lots of land.

How they kept political power.  Germany had a voting system that even Bismarck described as perverse, but it helped put the power in the hands of the upper classes.  New nobles were usually created from people of noble descent, and land-owners -- even if they made a mint in industry, they would become landowners, often, before the title came.

And their control of high culture.  This gets a little weak because while he opens with the observation that "pre-industrial" presupposes a natural evolution, he has a tendency to throw around "progressive" as if it were obvious what is progress in the art.  And it goes on a little too long about the difficulties of the avant-garde, when we tend to be more ignorant of academic artists of the time. 

Still, an interesting look at the social structure of 19th century Europe.
Tags: genre: non-fiction, xxx author last name: i-q
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