Europe in the Twentieth Century by Robert O. Paxton, Julie Hessler

By Robert O. Paxton, Julie Hessler

EUROPE within the 20th CENTURY deals a entire, but streamlined narrative of twentieth-century Europe. The scholarship and foreign money is top-notch as is the book's first-class attention of significant socio-cultural matters within the 20th century, together with adolescence hobbies and feminism.

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The Rich and the Poor 15 The Middle Class Between the few rich and the many poor lay the broad middle class. In its upper reaches, the European middle class was composed of comfortably established business and professional men and their families. An excellent literary example is the solid Lübeck merchant family whose rise and decline over several generations are described in Thomas Mann’s novel Buddenbrooks (1902). The creators of the Buddenbrook firm were sober, hard-working men, careful with their money, confident of its value, as contemptuous of the frivolous, spendthrift ways of the aristocracy as they were of the coarse ways of the poor.

It is striking how frequently nineteenth-century novels treat the theme of moving to the city, and how badly the fictitious urban immigrants fared. A prototype was Julien Sorel in Stendhal’s The Red and the Black (1831). Increasingly calculated love affairs led him finally to Paris and to execution for having tried to kill his mistress. Many Europeans among the millions who moved into towns and cities did indeed find moral depravity and loneliness as well as physical misery. Although social critics deplored urban poverty, conservatives attacked cities as warrens of uprooted cosmopolitan civilization.

7 percent living in poverty. In the richest city of the richest country in the world, in 1900, nearly one-third of the people felt chronic hunger, cold, and fatigue. Poverty was just as widespread in prosperous northern France, the Low Countries, and western Germany as in England. In the more backward areas of Eastern and Southern Europe, bare subsistence or less was still the ordinary lot. In 1900, for example, average life expectancy was under thirty-five years in the Balkans and in Spain. Even those wage earners who lived above bare subsistence struggled with the most inescapable quality of working-class life: insecurity.

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