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date: 12 August 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter argues the case for the unity of early twentieth-century European history, while at the same time identifying the absence of conceptual frameworks and general explanations for that unity. Specifically, the 1914–45 era was an age of political experimentation and social engineering, when empires were replaced by nation states, and when political violence was becoming a normative feature of governance. It proved to be an exceptionally violent age, claiming tens of millions of lives. In such conditions, Europeans were transformed ontologically, as the vast majority of people were nationalized and politicized. Although experiences of this tumultuous era varied across Europe, and while it featured many significant progressive developments, the era was defined by war and violence, and it threatened to create a very different Europe to that which did emerge after the Second World War.

Keywords: historiography, Europe, second ‘thirty years war’, periodization, state formation, social experience

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