The Struggle for Supremacy, from 1453 to the Present


By Brendan Simms

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With “verve and panache,” this magisterial history of Europe since 1453 shows how struggles over the heart of the continent have shaped the world we live in today (The Economist).

Whoever controls the core of Europe controls the entire continent, and whoever controls Europe can dominate the world. Over the past five centuries, a rotating cast of kings, conquerors, presidents, and dictators have set their sights on the European heartland, desperate to seize this pivotal area or at least prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. From Charles V and Napoleon to Bismarck and Cromwell, from Hitler and Stalin to Roosevelt and Gorbachev, nearly all the key power players of modern history have staked their titanic visions on this vital swath of land.

In Europe, prizewinning historian Brendan Simms presents an authoritative account of the past half-millennium of European history, demonstrating how the battle for mastery of the continent’s center has shaped the modern world. A bold and compelling work by a renowned scholar, Europe integrates religion, politics, military strategy, and international relations to show how history — and Western civilization itself — was forged in the crucible of Europe.
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  • "Brilliantly successful.... Simms has the breadth of knowledge and clarity of vision to make his case compelling. His book is also immensely entertaining as well as instructive. There are few pages not enlivened by sharp insight, telling vignette or memorable turn of phrase. In short, this is a great book and everyone interested in European history will want to read it."
    BBC History Magazine
  • "Prodigious.... If postmodern scholarship has Ranke spinning in his grave, Mr. Simms's book will give his weary soul some rest.... This is the history of Richelieu, Metternich and Kissinger, not of Luther, Newton and Beethoven. Such a summary may sound arid, but Europe is anything but. In fact, it draws the reader forward with its grand epic of shifting alliances, clashing armies and ambitious statecraft. Simms is a skilled writer with a rare gift for compressed analysis. His focus on the military and diplomatic arc of European history lends his book a strong narrative line and thematic coherence. Patterns emerge that might have remained buried in a more various survey."
    Wall Street Journal
  • "World history is German history, and German history is world history. This is the powerful case made by this gifted historian of Europe, whose expansive erudition revives the proud tradition of the history of geopolitics, and whose immanent moral sensibility reminds us that human choices made in Berlin (and London) today about the future of Europe might be decisive for the future of the world."
    Timothy Snyder, author of Bloodlands
  • "Brendan Simms is a historian of unusual range and ability.... Writing such a book is a colossally demanding task -- the sort of challenge most sane historians would baulk at, unless they had a very clear idea of what they wanted to say. Luckily, knowing what he wants to say is one of Simms's strengths.... Like all truly powerful and original works, this is a book worth disagreeing with. But above all it is a book worth reading."
    The Telegraph
  • "A sweeping, intelligent and enormously ambitious book."
    The Washington Times
  • "Europe is a superb, sure-footed analysis of how this center of world civilization, technology, and warfare evolved since the fall of Constantinople in 1453. It is unabashedly political history, and the better for being so. Simms's acumen and sharp opinions are a joy to read. This book will be appreciated both by the general reader and by history teachers everywhere."
    Paul Kennedy, J. Richardson Dilworth professor of history, Yale University, and author of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
  • "Brendan Simms's new history [is] especially timely. He has, in effect, dropped a big stone into the European pond and stood back to watch the ripples spread.... It is a compelling and provocative thesis.... This is sweeping history, told with verve and panache, and it is all the more refreshing for that."
    The Economist
  • "Europe is a stimulating, impressive history that starts with the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople in 1453 and extends to the present day.... An excellent read and its insights into the grand themes of European history are penetrating and lucidly argued."
    Financial Times
  • "European history comes in many guises, but Brendan Simms's strategic and geopolitical approach provides a strong and lucid framework within which everything else fits into place. His emphasis on the centrality of Germany offsets more western-orientated accounts while also giving due prominence to Eastern Europe. Covering the whole of the modern period, this book is more than an excellent introduction; it's a major interpretational achievement."
    Norman Davies, St. Antony's College, Oxford and Jagiellonian University, Krakow
  • "An unrepentantly old-fashioned, lively and erudite history of Europe since 1453.... Ambitious in scope.... Simms knows what he is talking about."
    The New Statesman
  • "Sweeping and provocative."
    The Weekly Standard

On Sale
Oct 7, 2014
Page Count
720 pages
Basic Books

Brendan Simms

Brendan Simms

About the Author

Brendan Simms is a professor in the history of international relations and fellow at Cambridge. He is the author of many books, including Europe and Hitler. He lives in Cambridge, UK.

Charlie Laderman is a senior lecturer in international history in the war studies department at King’s College, London. He is the author of books on US-UK foreign policy, including Sharing the Burden. He lives in London.

Learn more about this author