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Europe by Rail

           This essay focuses on the political, economic, and cultural history of the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, and Italy, especially of London, Paris, Lausanne, St. Moritz, and Stresa, and the meteoric rise, seeming invincibility, and eventual fall of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769- 1821). It is written for the participants on Stanford Travel/Study’s upcoming train excursion, Grand European Rail Journey, scheduled for August-September, 2022.


         I begin with four comparative briefings that set out major turning points in 2,500 years of British, French, Swiss, and Italian history and summarize key comparative indicators of socio-economic development. Within that context, I then focus on one French leader, Napoleon Bonaparte, whose imperial conquests significantly influenced the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Italy as well as France and much of the rest of Europe.

         I include two sections on Napoleon. The first deals with how he gained control of France in 1799, the reforms that he enacted during the Consulate period (1799-1804), and how he created an empire in Europe(1805-1811). The second covers the last decade of Napoleon’s life (1812-1821) – why the Continental System led to his downfall, how he struggled to recover from defeat, and what legacies emerged from his rule. I append a time line for the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, and Italy, a time line for Napoleon Bonaparte, a bibliography for United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, and Italy (which includes books on Napoleon Bonaparte), and a description of sites that I have visited in London, Paris, Lausanne, St. Moritz, and Stresa.

Peter the Great, Russia under Catherine the Great, Russia under Nicholas II and Alexandra, Food Patterns of the Aristocracy and the PeasantrNative Inhabitants and Their Environments, Invading Nations Possessed Superior Technology, Native Cultures Were Obliterated and Native Peoples Were Marginalized, Fur Trapping and Trading, Exploration by Government Expeditions, Mining of Natural Mineral Resources, Agriculture and the Emigration of Settlers, Shifting European Alliances, Partition of Poland, Expansion to the Black Sea, Liberalizing Autocrat, Prolific Writer, Art Collector, Lonely Lover, St. Petersburg – Peter and Paul Cathedral, Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, and St. Isaac’s Cathedral, Pushkin – Catherine I’s Palace, and Pavlovsk – Paul I’s Pnchaary, French

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