In this brief introduction to his mighty history, Sorel gives us a sweeping and incisive understanding of the workings of court diplomacy as practiced from the time of Louis XIV up to the Revolution itself. It is an ugly picture of beautifully dressed women and gentlemen behaving in the most barbarous fashion, while doing so with grace and in a mannered style that was so brilliant and compelling that we can only wonder how they could carry out their perfidy and remain outwardly so cavalier. And yet, in the midst of sordid intrigue and heinous butchery, they did just that.
Never in European history has such elaborate courtesy and refined behavior so thoroughly masked a vile intent. No one could be trusted. Thrones and kingdoms were partitioned and absorbed willy-nilly and their rulers sent packing...if they were lucky. Wars were frequent and horrible. Revenge, secret agreements, assassination: all in a day's work for an 18th century enlightened despot. When it came to "reasons of state", no kingdom was secure and no treaty sacrosanct. Diplomatic and military success were the only things that counted, and they were pursued with deadly zeal.
This miniature masterpiece pierces the veil of 18th century manners and refinement to reveal the shocking truth of a "polite" aristocracy on the verge of self-immolation. Even after a hundred years, Europe Under the Old Regime remains one of the greatest historical essays ever written.
Unique prospective on the advancing developement of Europe, and the thoughts of the old guard.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
While the author is highly knowledgeable in European history , the book is written very poorly. There is no time or geographic progression so it is very hard to fallow. So each chapter will take you to Russia Poland France England, treaty of Westphalia, Napoleon, and Cromwell and everything else. No point to it.
Half way through, I cant tell my wife what have I learned...
1 of 7 people found this review helpful
I enjoyed this short book. It's interesting to hear history from a viewpoint closer to the time described (written in 1890s). I'll listen again as much went over my head. It makes me want to learn more. The reading sounds dated but that helps fix it to the views of an older era.