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The Complete Idiot's Guide to European History

The Complete Idiot's Guide to European History

• Fascinating, fact-filled writing that delivers hundreds of years in the life of the European continent
• Terrific supplementary reading for AP History students


Part 1. Climbing Out of the Middle Ages (c.1300-1600)

This is the place to start for modern European history, as Europe emerged from the Middle Ages, changed by major events such as the Crusades, the Black Death, the Hundred Years’ War, and scandal in the Church. These events laid the foundations for future events like the Renaissance and the Reformation. This part also shows how European curiosity led to the discovery of ancient texts and far-off lands never before seen by Europeans. Part 1 also demonstrates the importance of religion to Europe as the Church and the faithful struggled, sometimes against one another, to find the truth about God.

Chapter 1. The End of the World as We Know It

If you think only modern humans have ever considered the end of the world then think again. In this chapter you’ll learn how Europe faced some major disasters and felt as though the world was on the verge of destruction. Needless to say, the world didn’t end then.

Introducing the Middle Ages

The Bubonic Plague

The 116 Years' War

From Two Kingdoms to Two Nations

The Church's Black Eye

When Peasants Are Hungry and Taxed

Chapter 2. Civilization Reborn

In this chapter you’ll see how society was transformed by the rebirth of ideas from ancient Greece and Rome. The progress and achievement in this chapter are among the greatest in European history.

Introducing the Renaissance

Why Italy?

The Isms

How Great the Art

Better Late Than Never: Northern Renaissance

Chapter 3. Time for a Change in the Church

The emphasis on learning in the Renaissance and the invention of the printing press encouraged Europeans to think for themselves. Here you’ll learn how the emphasis on learning, reading, and thinking changed religion and in fact the history of the world.

Introducing the Reformation

Mumblings and Grumblings About the Church

The Monk with a Mission

Luther vs. the Church

The Far-Reaching Effects of Luther's Ideas

Chapter 4. Time for an Alternative to the Church

Here you’ll discover that there were many alternative religious ideas that grew out of cries for reform. Though really different in some ways, these new religious views all shared anti-Catholic perspectives.

The Reformation Goes International

Instituting a New Form of Protestantism

From Scotland to Geneva and Back Again

The Fringe Groups of the Reformation

The English Reformation Soap Opera

Chapter 5. The Catholic and Counter Reformations

In this chapter you’ll see how the Catholic Church reacted to calls for reform and to the mass exodus from Catholicism.

Renewal and Reform

Who's Trent?

Order, Order

Expect the Inquisition and the Index

Part 2. Might Makes Right, Right? (c.1450-1750)

This part tells of an era when those in power had the luxury of imposing political and religious ideas on the people of Europe. Explorers and conquerors spread European ideas to the New World. France struggled to establish one religion, faced battles over religion, and ultimately made a great compromise to save the country. Here you’ll find the strange but true story of the great witch hunts. This section also details the rise of two of the most powerful political forces in European history. First, the Holy Roman Empire rises to greatness and controls a continent, at least in the minds of the Holy Roman Emperors. Second, Louis XIV of France rises to the status of Sun King and rules longer than any other monarch in European history. His legacy, too, was unlike any Europe had ever seen. Other rulers tried to rule like Louis XIV, but no one even came close.

Chapter 6. God, Gold, and Glory

Everyone knows the rhyme about Christopher Columbus and the ocean blue. Here you’ll find the rest of the story about him and the other explorers who risked their lives on expeditions including why they went and what they hoped to find.

Europe Looks Beyond the Horizon

Europeans Begin Overseas Exploration

Guys Who Sailed the Ocean Blue

The Making of the Armada

Chapter 7. Our Religion Is Better Than Your Religion

In this chapter you’ll see firsthand how some Europeans reacted to the rise of new religious ideas. You may be surprised what people did to other people in the name of religion.

The Habsburgs and the Valois

The Many Wars of Religion

The Naughty Netherlands

Protestants vs. Catholics in England

How to Find Witches

Chapter 8. The Rise and Fall of the Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Empire was once one of the greatest political powers in all of Europe. So what happened? In this chapter you’ll learn how a few guys getting tossed from a window eventually led to the fall of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Holy Roman Empire

The Thirty Years' War

Aftermath and Fallout

Chapter 9. Am I in Charge? Absolutely!

Louis XIV ruled France longer than any other monarch in European history. In this chapter you’ll see what measures he took to keep order and what other rulers like him did to justify their absolute reigns.

Planting the Seeds of Absolutism

The Sun King

Absolutism in England

The Death of English Absolutism

Chapter 10. The Eastern Absolutists

Louis XIV wasn’t the only absolute ruler. Eastern European monarchs tried their hand at absolute rule. In this chapter you’ll find out how they stacked up against the Sun King.

The Plight of the Peasants

Austria After the War

Prussia (with a P!)

Russia on the Rise

To Modernize or to Westernize? That Is the Question

If It Ain't Baroque...

Part 3: Revolutions Galore (c.1500-1800)

This part tells the story of change and how Europe dealt with that change. Traditions, dogmas, accepted doctrines, and even absolute truths were literally shattered. Scientists approached the universe from different angles and came to conclusions different from anyone who observed the world before them. The thinkers who came later applied the same rational process to analyzing problems of society and came up with conclusions that affect each of us today, contributing greatly to the foundations of modern government, modern science, and even modern religion. Agricultural innovators and hungry peasants developed new ways of producing food for an undernourished population. Over time, their discoveries and inventions produced remarkable results. This part also tells the fascinating and tragic story of the French Revolution: class struggle, economic hardship, and civil liberties, all playing a role in one of the most important events in all of European history.

Chapter 11. Revolt of the Scientists

Here you’ll discover that much of our current scientific knowledge about the universe actually isn’t that old. This chapter tells the story of a few individuals who questioned traditional knowledge and practices and, in the process, made some amazing earth-shattering discoveries.

A New Worldview

On the Shoulders of Giants

The Reaction of Religion

Cooking with Bacon and Descartes

Consequences of the Scientific Revolution

Chapter 12. Enlightening the Public, Not the People

Have you ever heard of the philosophes? Not philosophers, philosophes. What’s the difference? You’ll find out here.

Linking the Revolution and the Enlightenment

The Philosophes

The Encyclopedia

Tolerance: A Reasonable Expectation

The Later Enlightenment

The Oxymoron of Enlightened Absolutists

Chapter 13. The Agricultural Revolution and an Expanding Europe

What impact on European society could be made by a seed drill and some turnips? You’ll find the answer to that question in this chapter.

Seeds of Revolution

Open and Closed

Revolutionary Agricultural Technology

People, People Everywhere!

The Cottage Industry

The Atlantic Economy

Chapter 14. The French Revolution

In this chapter you’ll see what happens when hungry, oppressed people get mad. You’ll also see what happens when absolute power falls into the hands of the wrong people. Fasten your seatbelts for this one.

Trouble for the Brits

Louis XVI's Dilemma

The National Assembly and Revolution

The National Assembly Takes Over

Off with His Head: The Reign of Terror

Part 4: You Say You Want More Revolution? (c.1776-1900)

This part shows how struggle gave birth to strong rule which gave way to struggle which gave way to .... You get the idea. Napoleon seized power after the French Revolution and almost conquered Europe. After Europe’s armies and the Russian winter finally defeated him, the leaders of Europe reinstated strict controls. Oppressed peoples struggled to revolt and create nations where they had some input, but the revolutions were shortlived. Brilliant politicians also harnessed that desire for nation status to create two modern nations, Italy and Germany. Competition increased among the European powers and that competition led to imperialism, entangling alliances, and plenty of tension. The rise of machines both simplified and complicated lives, resulting in an industrialized continent with new, work- related challenges. Socialists attempted to address these issues and, as a result, socialist thought would dominate Europe for the next 200 years.

Chapter 15. “Little“ Guy Named Napoleon, a Big Wig Named Metternich

Napoleon really wasn’t all that short. He was that important, though. So was a snobby aristocrat named Metternich. Here you’ll see how these two dominated Europe for half a century.

The Little Man with Big Plans

Napoleonic France

Napoleon Can't Get Enough of Europe

Life After Napoleon and Balance of Power Politics

More Isms

Prince Klemens von Metternich

Chapter 16. The Industrial Revolution

Just like today, humans used machines to make their lives better two hundred years ago. In this chapter you’ll see what inventions led to a fully-industrialized society and you’ll get a look at the underbelly of industrialization.

Shop Britain First

State-of-the-Art Technology

Labor and Reform

The Sewer of City Life

How Romantic

Chapter 17. Intriguing New Ideologies

Intellectuals and workers alike saw industrialization as potentially harmful for the working class people of Europe. They developed some theories about the working class and property that would have an effect even on modern European governments.


Marx and the Manifesto

The Socialist Movement

New Ideas About Family

Chapter 18. Nineteenth-Century Growing Pains

Europe hit a growth spurt in the 1800s and it wasn’t always pretty. In this chapter you’ll see what problems grew out of the desire for less oppressive governments. You’ll also experience the miracle of birth as two important nations are born.

Before the Watershed

1848: Year of Revolts

Another Napoleon

Nation Building: Italy and Germany

Reforming Russia

Chapter 19. What a Tangled Web

Some people say you can never have too many friends. In this chapter, you’ll find evidence to the contrary. You’ll also see how Europeans competed to grab as much of the world’s land as possible out of a sense of competition with one another.

A Global Market

The White Man's Burden

Entangling Alliances

Too Much Tension

Part 5: Big Wars and Big Bangs (Twentieth Century)

Europe spiraled into two world wars as a result of competition, arms races, nationalism, and greed. Russia pulled out of World War I to fight its own bloody civil war. World War I ended in 1919 but the hostilities remained, to be exploited by dictators to create powerful armies and states. The failings of the treaty that ended the First World War contributed to the outbreak of the Second World War, a global conflict that turned out to be worse than the first one. The atomic age ended the war, but left everyone nervous for generations as east faced off against west in the Cold War. Communism dominated eastern Europe and then collapsed at the end of the twentieth century, leaving Europe with a whole new set of challenges, especially in eastern Europe. Finally, a few current events of interest and importance point the way to the challenges on the horizon for Europe.

Chapter 20. Turning the World Upside Down

The world did get turned upside down during the first 30 years of the twentieth century. In this chapter you’ll see how a world war, a major revolution, and a depression left Europe reeling.

The War That Was Supposed to End All Wars

The Russian Revolution

Let's Call the Whole Thing Off

The Age of Anxiety

Chapter 21. World War: Second Verse, Worse Than the First

This chapter will explain how the First World War never really ended but just got put on hold while a few ruthless dictators rose to power. If you thought the First World War was rough, just wait till you read this.

Continental Drift

Dictators Seize Power

Appeasement-Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time

Total War

The Holocaust

Chapter 22. The Cold War Era

Two unlikely sides cooperated to defeat the enemy in World War II but the two sides weren’t friends. Here you’ll see how the drama unfolds as the two sides give each other the cold shoulder for a generation.

Nations United or United Nations?

Rising from the Ashes

A Nicer USSR?

Letting Go Is Hard to Do

The Economy Worsens

Chapter 23. Changing Millennia

Whoever said “All good things must come to an end” should have said “All Communist things must come to an end.” That’s exactly what happens in this chapter as democracy triumphs over communism and then creates a whole new set of challenges for our children and grandchildren to sort out.

The Decline and Fall of Communism

Bad Days in the Balkans

The European Union

The More Things Change

Appendix - Major Events in European History

Everything that ever happened in European history is in this timeline. Actually, that’s not true but many of the landmark events are here in order so you can see how the whole story fits together.

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