Phantom Terror : Political Paranoia and the Creation of the Modern State, 1789-1848
Overview - For the ruling and propertied classes of the late eighteenth century, the years following the French Revolution were characterized by intense anxiety. Monarchs and their courtiers lived in constant fear of rebellion, convinced that their power--and their heads--were at risk. Read more...
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More About Phantom Terror by Adam Zamoyski
For the ruling and propertied classes of the late eighteenth century, the years following the French Revolution were characterized by intense anxiety. Monarchs and their courtiers lived in constant fear of rebellion, convinced that their power--and their heads--were at risk. Driven by paranoia, they chose to fight back against every threat and insurgency, whether real or merely perceived, repressing their populaces through surveillance networks and violent, secretive police action. Europe, and the world, had entered a new era.
In Phantom Terror
, award-winning historian Adam Zamoyski argues that the stringent measures designed to prevent unrest had disastrous and far-reaching consequences, inciting the very rebellions they had hoped to quash. The newly established culture of state control halted economic development in Austria and birthed a rebellious youth culture in Russia that would require even harsher methods to suppress. By the end of the era, the first stirrings of terrorist movements had become evident across the continent, making the previously unfounded fears of European monarchs a reality. Phantom Terror
explores this troubled, fascinating period, when politicians and cultural leaders from Edmund Burke to Mary Shelley were forced to choose sides and either support or resist the counterrevolutionary spirit embodied in the newly-omnipotent central states. The turbulent political situation that coalesced during this era would lead directly to the revolutions of 1848 and to the collapse of order in World War I. We still live with the legacy of this era of paranoia, which prefigured not only the modern totalitarian state but also the now preeminent contest between society's haves and have nots.
These tempestuous years of suspicion and suppression were the crux upon which the rest of European history would turn. In this magisterial history, Zamoyski chronicles the moment when desperate monarchs took the world down the path of revolution, terror, and world war.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
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In the first days of the French Revolution, minor nobles and the French lower classes hoped for greater liberties. Instead, as Zamoyski (Warsaw 1920) reveals in this meticulous, thorough account, the revolution’s devolution into a bloodbath and the subsequent rise and fall of Corsican upstart Napoleon created paranoia among monarchs, leading to the evolution of narrowly focused police and agents provocateurs (who became models for state agents in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union). Zamoyski demonstrates how this atmosphere enveloped not only France, but much of Europe, leading to increased restrictions and harsh punishments, notably for students and foreigners. In the midst of the overarching theme of progressive (also called liberal or radical) movements and their opponents, key figures such as Wellington, Napoleon, Czar Alexander, and the Bourbon heirs pale beside the grand schemer and architect of the multicountry alliance: Austrian foreign minister Klemens von Metternich. It’s a dense but stimulating work; Zamoyski takes an infamous 18th-century class struggle and painstakingly shows how the resulting suppression manifested itself through sophisticated spy networks and Germany’s heightened nationalism, as well as a chasm between the economic and social classes that persists today. Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Assoc. (Feb.)