Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Algeria....and the Revolutions of 1848, A couple of book suggestions

I've been thinking about the Revolutions of 1848 in Europe as a great source of insight into what is happening today in the Middle East and North Africa.  Today, Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post suggests that the 1848 upheaval is a better period of history to study to better understand what is happening today, and I agree.  Stop thinking the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the late 1980's, what is happening today is more in line with what happened in Europe in 1848! 

Map of the Revolutions of 1848
The 1848 revolutions across Europe, propelled forward by the rising middle class in partnership with the impoverished classes, reacting to spikes and shortages in food prices, annoying hereditary monarchies, growing nationalist tendencies calling for unification (Germany and Italy), a general movement towards participatory democracy and a more liberal political system, resulted in the first steps towards the modern era.  The 1848 revolutions were not all successful or immediate, but they did start the reform and modernization of impacted nations.  Like 1848, I doubt that today's revolutions and reforms across the Middle East and North Africa will result in immediate Utopia.  More likely, these rebellions and revolutions will usher in a period of change that will sometimes be positive, sometimes negative but all, eventually resulting in dramatic change in governance and hopefully a new era of stability where freedom and democracy is the norm.

If you an unfamiliar with the revolutions of 1848 there is no better time than now to become acquainted with the era and actors.  Here are two titles that seem appropriate and would be solid additions to any private library.

Penelope Smith Robertson, The Revolutions of 1848:  A Social History, Princeton University Press, 1952, 1967 (1st Princeton paperback edition), 1968 (2nd Princeton Paperback edition).  This is a distinguished and major narrative history and tells the story of the peoples and places involved in the 1848 revolutions.  When published it was considered a defining history of this era, continues to be well regarded and remains a standard by which more recent histories are compared.  I would suggest acquiring a first edition, first printing of the 1952 edition.  It is unlikely that serious revisions were undertaken for the paperback releases and in this case, acquiring the original, in fine condition, is a solid addition to a private library.

A recently published book provides an updated overview of the revolutions of 1848 based on the focused research published for the 1998 sesquicentennial.  Mike Rapport, 1848:  Year of Revolution, Basic Books, New York and Lilttle Brown, London, 2008, 2010 (paperback). While the paperback release is the link displayed here, I would suggest that anyone interested in acquiring this title, find a copy in fine condition via the used book marketplace, here.

Adding both titles to a library would created a wonderful set of books about the often marginalized, but very timely, history of the revolutions of 1848.  A wonderful review of the Rapport book, which mentions the Robertson title, can be found here.   

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