The Long 19th Century: European History from 1789 to 1917

Take an unflinching look at some of history's major players during a complex and fascinating period of history.
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Few periods of history are so captivatingly complex as Europe's 19th century, the often-broadly defined period from the French Revolution to World War I that formed the foundation of the modern world. These lectures enable you to take an enormous stride toward understanding this turbulent and important era and its effect on peasants, workers, the middle class, aristocrats, women, and minorities.


Robert I. Weiner
Robert I. Weiner

Understanding the past on some meaningful level can give additional meaning to our lives-a sense of balance and perspective that facilitates civilized behavior, the ability to empathize and not to take ourselves too seriously.


Lafayette College
Dr. Robert I. Weiner is the Thomas Roy and Lura Forrest Jones Professor of History at Lafayette College. He earned his B.A. from Temple University and a Hebrew teaching certificate from Gratz Hebrew College. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers University. Since joining the faculty of Lafayette College in 1969, Professor Weiner has taught a wide range of courses in the fields of Modern European History and Modern Jewish History. He also serves as a Jewish chaplain and was Director of Contemporary Civilization at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College for eight years. Dr. Weiner is an award-winning teacher. He received six Student Government Awards for Superior Teaching and several institutional awards for teaching, service, and leadership, including the Lafayette College Marquis Distinguished Teaching Award and the James Lennertz Award for Teaching and Mentoring. Professor Weiner has published a number of articles and commentaries on both Modern European History and Modern Jewish History.

By This Professor

The Long 19th Century

01: The Long 19th Century

This lecture discusses the reasons for extending the "century" to include the points in time when the masses and modern nationalism first presented themselves in Europe's most powerful country to the collapse of the 19th-century Eurocentric world order....

34 min
The Legacy of the Past-The Old Regime

02: The Legacy of the Past-The Old Regime

What was Europe like on the eve of the French Revolution? We discuss how the structures of a changing medieval society were further challenged by economic, social, and cultural forces, even before the more profound agrarian and industrial revolutions to come....

30 min
The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848

03: The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848

This lecture focuses on the landmark analyses of mid-20th century Marxist historian Eric J. Hobsbawm to explain how the French and Industrial Revolutions served as midwives to modern European history and, via the umbilical cord of European imperialism, modern world history....

30 min
The French Revolution

04: The French Revolution

Although scholars debate the causes of the French Revolution, all agree that it helped determine the political vocabulary, expectations, and myths of 19th-century Europe as it persisted for at least 10 years in Europe's most powerful state, spreading far and wide "in the knapsacks of French soldiers."...

30 min
The Napoleonic Era, 1799-1815

05: The Napoleonic Era, 1799-1815

An adventurer of enormous talents and capacity for work and intrigue, Napoleon Bonaparte dominates Europe's historical imagination like no one until Adolf Hitler, representing much that was best in his era, even though his legacy is marred by his monumental ego and penchant for conquest....

30 min
The First Industrial Revolution, 1760-1850

06: The First Industrial Revolution, 1760-1850

The Industrial Revolution becomes the main force propelling Europe's modernization and urbanization, gradually transforming much of Britain's urban landscape over several generations until by 1850 it is the workshop of the world, with a greater productivity than the rest of Europe combined....

30 min
The Era of Metternich, 1815-1848

07: The Era of Metternich, 1815-1848

We examine an era characterized by tensions between the forces of order and the forces of change. Though the former-represented by Austrian Prince Clemens von Metternich-generally dominates, more liberal, constitutional worlds emerge in Britain and in France, though by far different means....

30 min
The Revolutions of 1848

08: The Revolutions of 1848

Sparked by an "unintended" revolution in Paris, outbreaks involving middle class elements, workers, and artisans erupt in urban areas in the Germanic states, the Austrian Empire, and the Italian states, leading to a temporary collapse of established authority and hasty concessions....

31 min
Europe, 1850-1871-An Overview

09: Europe, 1850-1871-An Overview

Dashed expectations combine with expanding urban industrial civilization to usher in a new age of realpolitik and a new balance of power. Though an era of remarkable scientific, economic, and urban advancement, it is also marked by nationalist and class-based antagonism, Social Darwinism, and "modern" racist thought....

31 min
The Crimean War, 1853-1856

10: The Crimean War, 1853-1856

This lecture examines what is sometimes considered the most senseless of Europe's 19th-century wars-a conflict that makes possible the structural changes Europe will experience from the late 1850s through the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871....

30 min
From Napoleon to Napoleon-France, 1815-1852

11: From Napoleon to Napoleon-France, 1815-1852

More than the American Revolution, the French Revolution left a legacy of debris-disputed claims of legitimacy, disputed rights, and grievances. This lecture examines the tumultuous era between the defeat of Napoleon and the rise of his fascinating and enigmatic nephew, Louis Napoleon Bonaparte....

30 min
Napoleon III-An Evaluation

12: Napoleon III-An Evaluation

Napoleon III faced the daunting task of establishing legitimacy and creating a liberal, constitutional monarchy in a bitterly divided France and a Europe threatened by his name. Ruling longer than any 19th-century French monarch, Napoleon III's legacy is marred by France's defeat in the Franco-Prussian War....

30 min
Italy on the Eve-An Overview

13: Italy on the Eve-An Overview

The final structure of the Italian nation, achieved when Italy occupied Rome in 1870, was far from what the major players had anticipated. This lecture paves the way for understanding the disappointing results of "unification" by analyzing the plight of Italy in 1848....

31 min
Cavour and Napoleon III-

14: Cavour and Napoleon III-"Unifying" Italy

The developments that set "unification" into motion are instigated by Piedmontese minister Count Camillo di Cavour and Napoleon III. But Cavour's death leaves the final process of creating the new nation to lesser talents, with problematic results....

31 min
Germany on the Eve

15: Germany on the Eve

This lecture examines the situation before the forging of the German Empire by the powerful Prussian statesman, Otto Von Bismarck-a situation even more complex than that faced by Italy....

30 min
Age of Bismarck-Creating the German Empire

16: Age of Bismarck-Creating the German Empire

A believer in absolutist power and aristocratic ascendancy, Bismarck masters the forces of the age, using military success, nationalist pride, economic/industrial expansion, and astute political manipulation to create a Prussian-dominated German Empire he would guide until his dismissal in 1890, a victim of the irresponsible structure he had created....

31 min
The British Way

17: The British Way

This lecture examines how Great Britain's political, economic, and social structure allowed it to follow a unique path to political and economic modernization, weathering many of the storms afflicting other great powers-though not always without internal issues....

31 min
The Russian Experience, 1789-1881

18: The Russian Experience, 1789-1881

Russia begins the "long 19th century" with little stimuli for modernization. It is oversized and still expanding, overwhelmingly agrarian with primitive transportation and communication systems, and dominated by a divine right absolutist monarchy that is allied with a privileged aristocracy. This lecture examines Russia's transition....

30 min
The Apogee of Europe, 1870-1914

19: The Apogee of Europe, 1870-1914

During an age of massive change and material growth, there are crucial shifts in emphasis: nationalism, Social Darwinism, racism, industrialism, European imperialism, a decline in the "liberal" spirit. We also discuss the rise of modernist philosophies exemplified by such greats as Nietzsche, Freud, Bergson, and Sorel....

30 min
The Industrialization of Europe

20: The Industrialization of Europe

The Second Industrial Revolution brings about greater change than any prior era. New forms of power, technology, and business organization, along with the possibilities brought by revolutions in transportation, communications, and education, make this transformation synonymous with urban civilization....

31 min
The Socialist Response

21: The Socialist Response

Although industrial, urban civilization brings growing democratization and middle-class opportunity, it is also an era of expanding Socialist visions and unionism. The modern urban proletariat is now real, recognized even by Bismarck. This lecture examines the impact of this new reality....

31 min
The Longest Hatred-European Anti-Semitism

22: The Longest Hatred-European Anti-Semitism

This lecture examines what one historian has called "the longest hatred" a deeply embedded and changing element of Europe's culture, especially at the end of the 19th century, when it developed into new political and racial forms, notably in Central and Western Europe....

31 min
England, 1868-1914-Liberalism to Democracy

23: England, 1868-1914-Liberalism to Democracy

Although England's industrial dominance is eclipsed by Germany and the United States on the eve of World War I, and its extended empire has become a source of strain as well as pride, the English response to industrial society is still more successful than that of the other European powers....

30 min
The Third Republic-France, 1870-1914

24: The Third Republic-France, 1870-1914

Emerging from the Franco-Prussian War and the trauma of a civil war, the Third Republic struggles to consolidate itself and then cope with a progressively harsher series of crises that culminate in the Dreyfus Affair, an event so profound it is sometimes called simply "The Affair."...

31 min
Bismarckian and Wilhelminian Germany

25: Bismarckian and Wilhelminian Germany

Bismarck's domestic policies attempt every solution besides sharing real power. When he is fired by the brash new kaiser, the problematic forces Bismarck had been able to monitor-militarism, imperialism, and more extreme and racialist nationalism-begin to spiral out of control....

31 min
Flawed States-Austria-Hungary and Italy

26: Flawed States-Austria-Hungary and Italy

Although the Austro-Hungarian Empire and flawed Italian state did not have much in common, both were examples of "failed" nation-states at the end of the century. This lecture examines the reasons why, and the conditions in both nations during the formative years of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini....

30 min
Russia, Turkey, and the Balkans

27: Russia, Turkey, and the Balkans

This lecture examines the circumstances that ultimately lead Russia to humiliating defeat and the near-overthrow of the regime during the Russo-Japanese War, and how this, in turn, leads nationalists to focus their attention on the Balkans, where the seeds of disaster are planted....

30 min
Bismarck Dominates Europe, 1870-1890

28: Bismarck Dominates Europe, 1870-1890

This lecture examines Bismarck's dominance of Europe's diplomatic agenda as he constructs a complex system of defensive alliances that prove a dangerous legacy for later German leaders lacking in his genius, sense of proportion, and respect for the balance of power....

31 min

29: The "New" Imperialism

European imperialism from the 1880s until about 1905 is remarkable for its intensity, tone, scope, and impact. It is spurred on, sometimes haphazardly, by national pride, Social Darwinian and racial assumptions, the search for economic growth and strategic security, Christian conscience, human adventure, and greed....

30 min
The Diplomacy of Imperialism, 1890-1907

30: The Diplomacy of Imperialism, 1890-1907

This lecture examines the eventual unraveling of the Bismarckian system of alliances after his dismissal by Kaiser Wilhelm, culminating in the realization of Bismarck's worst nightmare: Germany surrounded by a number of powerful countries and tightly tied to an unstable Austria-Hungary....

31 min
Europe in Crisis, 1908-1914-Outbreak of War

31: Europe in Crisis, 1908-1914-Outbreak of War

A complex web of events, alliances, and crises move Europe closer to the brink of war. Eventually all of the powers focus on diplomatic and military preparedness, and patience is in short supply....

30 min
The Origins of World War I

32: The Origins of World War I

One of the most meticulously studied topics in all of modern history: the causes of World War I. This lecture examines how a seemingly local conflict could degenerate into the greatest tragedy in modern European history....

31 min
The Great War-A Military Overview

33: The Great War-A Military Overview

This lecture looks at the immediate and long-term impact of the war-the prism through which most of the 20th century passed-with emphasis on the critical battles and military decisions that determined its outcome and best represent its nature and impact....

31 min
The Home Front During Total War

34: The Home Front During Total War

Once the First Battle of the Marne determined that Germany would not win World War I quickly, and combatants realized the war would consume greater quantities of resources than imaginable, the "war behind the war" became as decisive as the one on battlefield, leaving an indelible imprint on the postwar generation....

31 min
The Impact of World War I-New World Disorder

35: The Impact of World War I-New World Disorder

Gauging the impact of World War I is difficult: It accelerated profound and global changes, many of which are still "in process" today. World War I was to the 20th century what the French and Industrial Revolutions were to the 19th....

31 min
Looking Back, Thinking Ahead

36: Looking Back, Thinking Ahead

This lecture summarizes the impact of the "long 19th century." It was, despite its tragedies, a time of progress and change, and brought to fruition many of the promises and hopes of both the French and Industrial Revolutions....

31 min