It’s sort of sick that this actually makes me nostalgic for the year I lived in London:
‘London [in 1900] was the capital of a worldwide empire, but you couldn’t tell that by looking at the city itself. Paris, well, now — there was a capital. A number of other European cities had modernised themselves in similar fashion. But London was an affront to the self-esteem of many Britons.
Their capital was almost devoid of beautiful squares or elegant boulevards, the traffic snarled, the streets were split by puffing steam trains on viaducts, one neighborhood after another was destroyed for the construction of railway stations and Underground lines, the city’s centre was encircled by endless slums.’
Geert Mak, ‘In Europe’
Mak is Dutch, and one of the pleasures of reading this book is getting a non-Anglo perspective on European history. Something I never really contemplated before is that all the history of the European continent I’ve read has been written by native English speakers. It’s a giant shame that more nonfiction doesn’t get translated out of other countries.