General Question

andrew's avatar

Wikipedia stinks. Where can I find better content about European history?

Asked by andrew (15764 points ) July 14th, 2012

I’ve been diving into European history during the 17th and 18th centuries, but many of the Wikipedia articles sound like they’ve been written by middle-school students.

Is there something better-written about the subject out there? I’m looking for just a general survey so I can understand how the pieces fit together. Even better if it’s hyperlinked so I can meander.

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14 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Hey there. Nice to hear from you again.

European history of the 17th and 18th century is a really broad topic. I took a course at college nicknamed “From Rome to Roosevelt (FDR),” and it could easily have been cribbed from a Wikipedia article.

Be more specific; I wager that many flutherers can recommend some fascinating books (remember them?).

andrew's avatar

Certainly there must be general surveys, right? At the moment I’m interested in the formation of sovereign nations such as The Netherlands, the Thiry Year’s War, The Napoleonic Wars, the Holy Roman Empire, the rise and fall of Spain as a colonial power and the proxy struggle by privateers and pirates in the Caribbean.

What I’d like is a large synthesis, something like Blood, Germs and Steel but for European history. Wikipedia is ideal for this sort of broad, reductive information, but it’s just so poorly written and disjointed within articles.

gailcalled's avatar

The topics you list may defy a survey…perhaps a mega-survey.

Perhaps there is a good textbook. I don’t have time now but you could check for a survey course given at that school in Providence (or Cambridge) and find out what the reading list is.

AngryWhiteMale's avatar

For such a synthesis, you’ll need to get off-line and read a book or two.

For on-line, universities, libraries, and museums tend to have good links to reference material. Here’s one from Fordham University for you to start with: Internet Modern History Sourcebook

gailcalled's avatar

Here ‘s a list of 48 best sellers from MacMillan on “European 17th Century.”

I was amused to see one tome entitled “Piracy and Privateering in the Golden Age Netherlands.”

“This exciting scholarly work examines Dutch maritime violence in the seventeenth century. The young Dutch Republic enjoyed a cultural and economic preeminence,...”

And this one; “Gender, Sexuality, and Syphilis in Early Modern Venice
The Disease that Came to Stay.”

“A unique study of how syphilis, better known as the French disease in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, became so widespread and embedded in the…”

lillycoyote's avatar

@andrew I don’t mean to be a smart ass or to be patronizing, but have you tried your local library and reading actual books; perhaps the local university or college library?

You’re talking about hundreds of years of history, of dozens of countries whose borders have changed; who have been a gazillion wars fought and hundreds of years of economic, social, cultural history; each “European” country has a long, complex and unique history.

People seem to expect too much from Wikipedia, I think. It’s an encyclopedia, it, like all encyclopedias, is not meant to be the be all and end all of your research and knowledge. Encyclopedias are there to give you an overview, to point you in the direction of further research; they are not an end in themselves.

What aspects of 17th and 18th century European history are you interested in? You just need to seek out reputable scholars, reputable historians and read what they have to say, then read other historians and kind of figure it out for yourself.

It’s a lot of work, trying to become knowledgeable and well read in 18th and 19th century European history, and no, you’re not going to do it by reading Wikipedia entries or any other encyclopedia entries
.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Are you talking about a Western Civ 2 resource? iTunes U has many Western Civ 2 lectures (European Civilization, Western Civ II, The Birth of the Modern: Europe and its Others). Keith Wrightson has an Early Modern England series.

Sometimes, there are documentaries by BBC or the History Channel (before it became total shite). Also, if you just Youtube whatever specific thing you’re looking for, there’s a really good chance some history major or grad student has made a short video.

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Earthgirl's avatar

This seems to be a respected general survey book on the subject. I don’t know if it’s available online for free, it might be.

You could also try Google scholar for free online articles and lectures.

As everyone else has said, you have to do some serious reading if you are going to have a grasp of the period. There is a lot to cover that is of importance and a short summary will not allow you to understand what happened and the impact of it on modern times. I would think that that would be the whole point of studying history, no?

Here is an example of information you can find free online. Project Gutenberg is great for a lot of subjects. This particular link covers history of the Netherlands.

Earthgirl's avatar

Sorry, the link doesn’t work, but if you go to this one you can search history and then just refine your search to the location and period.

Patton's avatar

Sites like this are hyperlinked, but rather superficial. I think you might need to get some books. One thing you could do is find courses with online syllabi and read selectively from them. Here’s a course that looks like it’s in your interest area. The course requirements link and the optional readings link both have books that might be worth your while.

andrew's avatar

Thank you all for your responses. I’ll look into some of those survey books.

I love the idea of looking up lectures on YouTube. I’m not at the point where I want to invest in reading a single-topic book (unless you’ve read a particular compelling one); I’m still in the phase where I want to get a very rough outline about the events so I can dive deeper into things that interest me in the future. In theory, wiki is great for this, I’m just annoyed by the standard of writing.

Is Encyclopedia Brittanica online?

Aethelflaed's avatar

Yeah, but only if you have a subscription.

janbb's avatar

Try the Encyclopaedia Britannica either in print or online for a good survey article. You should have access to the online version through your local public or a university library. If you then want to delve into specific topics, I would try the JStor academic database which will index scholarly journals in European history.

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