Modern Europe Study Program

Overview     Reading Recommendations     Study Aids    

The Modern Europe Study Program covers the histories of France, Italy and Germany during the 18th and 19th centuries. The program is organized by nationality rather than strictly chronologically so stories of the great revolutions of the age are told from various perspectives. (1700 to 1920).


The history of Modern Europe begins with the European wars of the 18th century and covers the 'age of revolution' including rise of Prussia, the political turmoil in France, the unification of Italy, the Great War (WWI) and the Bolshevik revolution.

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were a period of enormous political upheaval and technological change. Most student histories cover the main events and conflicts, but also spend time attempting to explain 'social movments', 'reforms' of government, the popular fight for political liberties. Unfortunately, the political movements of the age were extremely complicated and they are difficult to summarize accurately.

To make matters even more convoluted, secret societies, especially the Freemasons, played an enormous but behind-the-scenes role in European politics during this period. The conspirators outwardly promoted ideals of "equality, fraternity, and liberty", while secretly serving usurers, profiteers, and organized criminal networks. Deception, intrigue, terror, and treachery are the hallmarks of secret societies, but there are few 'official' historical accounts of their activities. In order to deal with these ommissions, Heritage History has collected a library of alternative histories that espose some of the covert activities of secret societies, but they are challenging and not suitable for introductory students.

The history of Modern Europe is a difficult period to understand but students should at least be introduced to the basic conflicts and ideologies of the "Revolutionary age" even if the true causes and meaning of events are not apparent. As long as younger students learn the essential facts of the period, more complicated insights can come later.

Reading Recommendations

The following books are recommended as 'core' reading assignments for Modern Europe. The complete texts are online, or PDF and EPUB versions can be downloaded.

France and Italy—The first three units cover the history of France from 1740 through the 19th century. The fourth unit covers the Unification of Italy from the Revolutionary era to 1870. There are few books specifically dedicated to Italian history, but the story of unification of Italy is closely related to French history, and selected chapters cover the essential points.

Prussia and Austria—Units five and six of Modern Europe cover the history of Austria and Prussia from the War of Austrian Succession to the Unification of Germany following the Franco-Prussian War.

Imperial Russia—Unit seven covers the history of Russia from Peter the Great to the Bolshevik Revolution.

World War I—Unit eight covers the history of the Great War.

Additional Reading Resources—The following links provide information about additional reading options for Modern Europe.

Study Aids

Study Aids are provided to help students review important characters and events. Some resources relate to all of Modern Europe and others to specific historical eras.

Historical Maps Outline Maps
Timeline Major Characters
Wars and Battles Era Summaries

Study Aids organized by Historical Era