Jeremy’s review of A History of the European Restorations

A History of the European Restorations. Vol 1: Governments, States and Monarchy, edited by Michael Broers and Ambrogio Caiani, Pp. xvi+316; Vol 2: Culture, Society and Religion, edited by Broers, Caiani and Stephen Bann, Pp. xvii+292. Both London, Bloomsbury, 2019, £90.00 for each.

The early-nineteenth century is not terribly well studied because it saw a period of reaction, described as the Restoration, which did not match the teleological assumptions, then or later, of the rise of radicalism and the move toward republicanism. The term Restoration was used with particular reference to France where, in the person of Louis XVIII, the Bourbons were restored twice: in 1814 and 1815. But it was not only relevant there. Dynasties displaced by the French were also restored elsewhere, including branches of the Bourbons in Spain and Naples. The House of Orange returned to the Netherlands, that of Savoy to Piedmont, and the Habsburgs to Lombardy. More generally, an old order was in evidence, and, as David Laven has brilliantly showed in Venice and Venetia under the Habsburgs, 1815-1835 (2002), it enjoyed considerable popular support, in part due to the unpopularity of the Napoleonic regime and in part due to support for conservatism, and notably of the Church. Indeed, the clergy took political office again, notably in Naples and the Papal States, the latter ably covered in the work under review by Francisco Javier Ramón Solans.

This exciting two-volume collection provides a wealth of material on the European dimension of the Restoration as Europe was both re-made and made anew in the aftermath of the Napoleonic period. Moreover, as the editors and contributors show, this was a process that was inherently controversial as well as difficult. Thus, there is a helpful section on ‘The World of the Victims: The Restoration from below,’ which includes Ute Planert on ‘Napoleon as an Icon of Political Liberalism in Restoration Germany’ and Alan Forrest on ‘Napoleonic Veterans and the Challenge of Peace,’ a two-way process.

The range is truly impressive, not least with interesting discussions on historicising the ancien régime and on the arts. The sole disappointing section is that on religion, which is limited to two chapters, one on the Spanish episcopate, and the other on the Papacy and the triumph of Ultramontism. Each is top-down. It would have been more useful to take forward work on the eighteenth century in order to look at religious observance at the individual and parochial levels and, thereby, reopen the interesting question of de-Christianisation. That is an important aspect of the different, but overlapping, impacts of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic period. For example, the extent to which monasticism was weak can be seen as a combination of ancien régime, Revolutionary and Napoleonic trends. The resulting despoliation had an impact in many townscapes.

This might appear a critical remark. In sum, however, this is an excellent collection, and the editors deserve praise. The range is truly impressive, covering both the states usually well-treated, notably France, but also others, for example the Netherlands, usually underplayed. As the concluding thoughtful piece by Michael Rapport shows, their approach also offers a way to consider the 1848 revolutions. These volumes deserve to be in every library concerned with teaching and research on nineteenth century Europe.


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