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Europe against Revolution. Conservatism, Enlightenment, and the Making of the Past

Matthijs Lok

LOK Matthijs, Europe against Revolution. Conservatism, Enlightenment, and the Making of the Past, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2023.

ISBN : 9780198872139

Contemporary Europe seems to be divided between progressive cosmopolitans sympathetic to the European Union and the ideals of the Enlightenment, and counter-enlightened conservative nationalists extolling the virtues of homelands threatened by globalised elites and mass migration. This study seeks to uncover the roots of historically informed ideas of Europe, while at the same time underlining the fundamental differences between the writings of the older counter-revolutionary Europeanists and their self-appointed successors and detractors in the twenty-first century. In the decades around 1800, the era of the French Revolution, counter-revolutionary authors from all over Europe defended European civilisation against the onslaught of nationalist revolutionaries, bent on the destruction of the existing order, or so they believed. In opposition to the new revolutionary world of universal and abstract principles, the counter-revolutionary publicists proclaimed the concept of a gradually developing European society and political order, founded on a set of historical and - ultimately divine - institutions that had guaranteed Europe’s unique freedom, moderation, diversity, and progress since the fall of the Roman Empire. These counter-revolutionary Europeanists drew on the cosmopolitan Enlightenment and simultaneously criticized its alleged revolutionary legacy. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, these ideas of European history and civilisation were rediscovered and adapted to new political contexts, shaping in manifold ways our contested idea of European history and memory until today.

Table of Contents

Prologue : Politics of the Past
1. The Ancient Edifice
2. An Unfinished History
3. The Philosopher’s Apprentice
4. Crusaders for Moderation
5. Equilibrium against Empire
6. The Pluralist Republic
7. Ancient and Modern State Systems
8. Vienna as a missed Opportunity
9. Revivals of Historical Europeanism

Matthijs Lok, Senior Lecturer in Modern European History, Universiteit van Amsterdam

Matthijs Lok studied European history at the Universities of Liverpool, Leiden, and Yale, followed by a brief career as a policy advisor. In 2009 he took his PhD at the History Department of the University of Amsterdam. In 2011 Lok received tenure as an universitair docent and in 2015 he became senior university lecturer. Lok was appointed a senior fellow of the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study NIAS (2019-20) and held visiting positions at the Lichtenberg Kolleg & Moritz Stern Institut Göttingen, Germany (2021-22) and the KU Leuven, Belgium (2022).