David Kaiser looks at four hundred years of modern European history to find the political causes of war. In four distinct periods he shows how war became a natural function of politics. Kaiser argues that the first era of modern war occured because monarchs challenged the power and independence of the European aristocracy. Conflicts dragged on interminably because monarchs lacked the military, economic, and political resources necessary for success. In our own century, during two world wars, European powers tried to create self-sufficient economic empires and to force homogeneous national states out of the multinational territories of central and eastern Europe.
Part 1 The general crisis of the 16th and 17th centuries: the nature of early modern politics; the Spanish Imperial Experience; French politics from the Wars of Religion to the death of Mazarin; the Thirty Years' War; the English Civil War in European perspective; the failure of the state. Part 2 The age of Louis XIV: the coming of a new era; the France of Louis XIV; the maritime powers and the Hapsburg states; smaller states during the reign of Louis XIV; the political achievement of the late 17th century. Part 3 The revolutionary and Napoleonic era: the enlightenment and European International politics; sources and consequences of the Wars of the French Revolution; the Napoleonic era; rationalism and history. Part 4 The era of the two World Wars: European politics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; European imperialism and economic prosperity, 1880-1914; the impact of nationalism and the outbreak of the First World War; the First World War; the Failure of Reconstruction, 1919-1933; Hitler and the Second World War; extermination and transfer - the nationalities question and the Second World War; the origins of totalitarianism.