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Extended Audio Sample Phantom Terror: Political Paranoia and the Creation of the Modern State, 1789–1848, by Adam Zamoyski Click for printable size audiobook cover
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For the ruling and propertied classes of the late eighteenth century, the years following the French Revolution were characterized by intense anxiety. Monarchs and their courtiers lived in constant fear of rebellion, convinced that their power—and their heads—were at risk. Driven by paranoia, they chose to fight back against every threat and insurgency, whether real or merely perceived, repressing their populaces through surveillance networks and violent, secretive police action. Europe, and the world, had entered a new era.

In Phantom Terror, award-winning historian Adam Zamoyski argues that the stringent measures designed to prevent unrest had disastrous and far-reaching consequences, inciting the very rebellions they had hoped to quash. The newly established culture of state control halted economic development in Austria and birthed a rebellious youth culture in Russia that would require even harsher methods to suppress. By the end of the era, the first stirrings of terrorist movements had become evident across the continent, making the previously unfounded fears of European monarchs a reality.

Phantom Terror explores this troubled, fascinating period, when politicians and cultural leaders from Edmund Burke to Mary Shelley were forced to choose sides and either support or resist the counterrevolutionary spirit embodied in the newly omnipotent central states. The turbulent political situation that coalesced during this era would lead directly to the revolutions of 1848 and to the collapse of order in World War I. We still live with the legacy of this era of paranoia, which prefigured not only the modern totalitarian state but also the now preeminent contest between society’s haves and have-nots.

These tempestuous years of suspicion and suppression were the crux upon which the rest of European history would turn. In this magisterial history, Zamoyski chronicles the moment when desperate monarchs took the world down the path of revolution, terror, and world war.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “With characteristic flair and elegance, Adam Zamoyski dissects the paranoia, suspicion, and conspiracy theories which followed in the wake of the French Revolution. He sketches out the birth of the modern police state in this era, as well as the origins of European totalitarianism and the beginnings of what we would later come to call class struggle. Phantom Terror is a timely and original history book, a brilliant guide to the past which will inspire reflections about the present as well.”

    Anne Applebaum, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Gulag: A History

  • “This diligently researched, beautifully written, and passionately argued work of scholarship completely convinces. Adam Zamoyski conclusively proves his case against the reactionary European Legitimist monarchy-dictatorships, and he does so with appropriately aristocratic panache. In so doing he leads an entire herd of sacred cows to the abattoir of history. This is revisionist history at its absolute best.”

    Andrew Roberts, New York Times bestselling author of The Storm of War

  • “Scintillating and original.”

    Economist (London)

  • “A dense but stimulating work; Zamoyski takes an infamous eighteenth-century class struggle and painstakingly shows how the resulting suppression manifested itself through sophisticated spy networks and Germany’s heightened nationalism, as well as a chasm between the economic and social classes that persists today.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Zamoyski focuses on the period after the French Revolution of 1789, when fear of liberal ideas became associated with revolutionary violence and European governments promulgated a spate of reactionary polices…In pursuit of the story of paranoia and repression, Zamoyski has mined an impressive selection of primary sources from Britain to Austria…The book is well written and should appeal to a wide audience.”

    Library Journal

  • “Zamoyski  shows how the French Revolution instigated fear in the hearts of European governments, most of it unfounded and falsely propagated by undefined fears and self-perpetuating rumors…His point is important, and his book comprehensively examines the role of the powerful over the weak and the effects of governmental overreactions.”

    Kirkus Reviews

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About the Author

Adam Zamoyski is an award-winning author of numerous books about Poland, Napoleon, and nineteenth-century Europe. A contributor to the London Times, Daily Telegraph, and Guardian and a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Society of Arts, and the Royal Society of Literature, Zamoyski lives in London.