“European Romanticism: A Brief History with Documents” by Warren Breckman

Read European Romanticism: A Brief History with Documents (The Bedford Series in History and Culture)

Warren Breckman’s European Romanticism: A Brief History with Documents takes an interesting approach: it allows readers to discover a topic as historians would, but reading through the actual documents of the period, including literature, essays, letters, and more. A fairly brief introduction—some forty pages—gives a very thorough overview and introduction. After that, the period is the reader’s to explore.

At the dawn of the 19th Century, one of the great cultural shifts of the modern era swept western Europe the Romantic movement. Dr. Breckman’s anthology gathers an array of insights into the history of Romanticism as more than an artistic and literary fad, but also as a politica and philosophical movement that had surprising and wide-ranging influence on modern views of art, science, and even religion.

Dr. Breckman includes both creative and critical writings from writers throughout Western Europe, and even a small (black and white, alas) selection of visual art, showing the crucial and apparently contradictory roles of swelling nationalism and transnational connections that made Romanticism a movement of such wide-reaching scope. The book also includes a detailed chronology and a selected bibliography.

I confess that, aside from the introduction, this isn’t a volume I intend to read cover to cover. Nonetheless, I have thoroughly enjoyed diving in here and there, like a culinary novice at a gourmet buffet (I know that’s a contradiction; work with me here), and sampling a little of this and a little of that. I am looking to doing more of that in the future. This is a terrific little overview that has made me curious to explore more.

I’m not really qualified to judge the skill of the collection. I can only see what’s here, and I don’t have sufficient knowledge to know what’s left out. But what’s here is fascinating, and I applaud this approach to presenting the history of a movement and its impact both to students and casual readers.


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