The Age Of Revolution: 1789-1848: Europe, 1789-1848

by Eric Hobsbawm

Paperback, 1988





Abacus (1988), Edition: New edition, 413 pages


Between 1789 and 1848 the world was transformed both by the French Revolution and also by the Industrial Revolution that originated in Britain. This 'Dual Revolution' created the modern world as we know it. Eric Hobsbawm traces with brilliant analytical clarity the transformation brought about in every sphere of European life by the Dual Revolution - in the conduct of war and diplomacy; in new industrial areas and on the land; among peasantry, bourgeoisie and aristocracy; in methods of government and of revolution; in science, philosophy and religion; in literature and the arts. But above all he sees this as the period when industrial capitalism established the domination over the rest of the world it was to hold for a century. Eric Hobsbawm's enthralling and original account is an impassioned but objective history of the most significant sixty years in the history of Europe.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member RobertDay
Hobsbawm links the two great revolutionary years - 1789, the year of the French Revolution and 1848, the year of revolutions that swept Europe but whose effects were more subtle - and describes the events, moments and thoughts of the 50-odd years that separate them. This was also the period of the
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Industrial Revolution and also revolutions in agriculture and science. Hobsbawm sets this period as the founding of our modern world.

Written in 1962, this book has occasional sylistic lapses which made me stop in a couple of places and go "eh?". Some of his throwaway comments I also disagreeed with, especially in areas which were a little tangental to his main argument. But overall, this is a worthy analysis of the period. Hobsbawm was one of post-war Britain's noted left-wing academics, but although he gives prominence to the rise of socialism (including the socialists and proto-socialists before Marx and Engels), he also gives due credit to the role of laissez-faire liberalism and capitalism in creating the modern world.
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LibraryThing member thorold
Heavyweight analytical history, but definitely worth the struggle if you have enough basic knowledge of the period to keep track of where you are. It's a bit like being in an Oxford tutorial: the ideas come flying at you at a great rate, and you're left to join up the dots as best you can. And most
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of the time you end up wondering why you never made that particular intellectual leap yourself, it's so obvious in hindsight. The chapter on the industrial revolution, in particular, became a whole string of those "Aha" moments for me.

Limitations: not many. Obviously, it's a book that was written half a century ago, and it goes with a left-wing way of thinking that isn't very fashionable any more. At times it's a bit like reading an Old Testament commentary, in the way it seems to treat everything that happened before 1848 as a preparation for the coming of Karl Marx. But that's certainly not a reason to dismiss Hobsbawm: you're free to agree with his politics or not, as you choose.

The style is fluent and professorial: there aren't many jokes, and those there are tend to be a bit heavy-handed; on the other hand, there are hardly any dull stretches, and jargon is kept to an absolute minimum. Not many recent history books, even popular ones, are as agreeable as this to read.
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LibraryThing member gmicksmith
This prominent historian surveys the period of sixty years from the reign of Louis XVI to the period of Marx and Engels' famous manifesto. The work includes 64 pages of black and white illustrations.
LibraryThing member SkjaldOfBorea
The first & best of EJ Hobsbawm's "Age of" series. Covers all the most familiar aspects, including a great deal before 1789, of the Industrial Enlightenment - or, as Hobsbawm memorably calls it, the 'Dual Revolution', the interaction of British industrial transformation with French political
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upheaval. The book is getting dated (first published 1962) & really seems a little conventional now, in its dutiful Sixties critique of all things Enlightenment.

Despite this the book remains unavoidable to date, a genuine must-read, having helped to direct all subsequent Industrial Enlightenment research.
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LibraryThing member machala
To me this is the best book of the series "The ages". Hobsbawm is a brilliant historian and in this book he shows all of its good skills in the "trade".
LibraryThing member RajivC
This is a brilliant book by a brilliant historian. He achieves what he set out to do - to write history in an enlightening manner. What is really nice, is that he has divided the subject of revolution into sections. His interpretation of the word "revolution" in itself, is enlightening, and then he
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proceeds to talk of the many dramatic changes that took place during that era. This is not a book for the faint-hearted, in that it is historical analysis at it's best, but it is not history written in the form of a novel. Both types of writing have their advantages, but I like his way of writing in t hat it is indeed serious writing, but writing that is approachable and not heavy on the head.

If you want to know of the dramatic changes that took place during this period, then this is a great place to start.
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LibraryThing member leandrod
Standard Leftist fare: all the world is seen as bad guys, the protagonists, and good guys, who merely react to the bad guys and thus are innocent of all the atrocities they had to commit, even if usually such atrocities were far bigger than those from the Right. A pity, because Hobsbawm writes so
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well. Actually, this volume is the most sufferable, as it precedes the appearance of a modern Left.
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LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
Given its reputation, Hobsbawm's work is less the magisterial Marxist version of The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers that I was expecting, less comprehensive history, one thing after another backed up by data on steel and coal production, and more of a fifty-year snapshot, a panorama look around
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at the horizon as Hobsbawm imagines it appeared in the period. There is a thesis basic and broad enough to quality as unremarkable fact: that the Revolution in France and the Industrial Revolution in England constitute the dual revolution that kicked off the nineteenth century and the all-that-is-solid-melts world. There is great thought devoted to the lifeworld of the peasant of 1799 or the bourgeois of 1830, to art and science, and to reminding us that despite transforming the world neither of these revolutions touched most people in the world by 1848. But most of all, Hobsbawm is concerned with the status of the revolutionary tradition, with trying to explain how we get from liberal radicals to militant workshops, peasant uprisings, the beginning of proletarian consciousness, Garibaldism, etc., and how the liberal radicals undermine everything that comes after them, becoming (and remaining) the most powerful reactionary weapon the world has ever known. That is all very interesting, but I was a bit disappointed in my perhaps unreasonable expectation to get reminded about more facts that happened.
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LibraryThing member Noisy
Well. What can I say. He makes the same category error as Stephen Jay Gould in attempting to treat people as a 'mass' rather than individuals. His analysis fails on that ground, and if he'd concentrated on being a historian rather than using the work as a bolster for his political views then it
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would have been a whole lot better. I've still given it five stars for the depth and breadth of the coverage of the period.

It also fails because of the myopic vision that everything is driven by politics; so, he does identify other influencing factors and goes into them at length, but you can tell that these are subsidiary to the point he's trying to make. In the end his point is lost, for all that he lauds his hero Marx, because capitalism did win the day and not enter the final phase of meltdown as was predicted.

And another thing ... I chose this book because I wanted to learn more about the Industrial Revolution - one of the two core revolutions touted as being at the centre of the work - and I came away deeply unsatisfied. Trade, resources, national characteristics, and the fact that Britain was in a position to lord it over everyone else on the high seas are all well and good, but the fact is that individual genius and individual entrepreneurship together with the ability to influence Parliament (manipulation of Parliament was dealt with well) were also major factors. Basically it needs another chapter 'Technology'.

And - perhaps this is just me - why 1848? Why was that the time that was seen as the culmination of the revolutionary period. It crops up often enough in the discussions but after reaching the end, I can't say that it's lodged in my mind as being anything special. 1789 gets plenty of coverage.

All these complaints, and I'm still leaving it as five stars. There are works by better writers and on subjects that I'm far more interested in that are still in a state of 'waiting to be completed' but I've made it to the end (page 392 if you're interested - i.e. I read the section on the bibliography in full as well). He's just so bound up in the subject that although it must have been a massive research and editing task it reads as though written in one session per chapter. I can see why people might deduct marks for the flaws I've picked out, but - come on - it's surely a masterpiece. READ IT.
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LibraryThing member le.vert.galant
An impressive synthesis of this era of European social history. The outlook is Marxist in that Hobsbawm is well aware that the dual revolutions created both winners and losers and that they could be best determined by class, but he never lets ideology cloud his thinking. His analysis is more
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descriptive than polemical. Hobsbawm is a fine prose stylist with a gift for the apt metaphor, but I found the book dense and difficult, primarily because the author assumes much foreknowledge on the part of the reader (this shouldn't be anyone's first history of the era). Even so, the insight and sweeping vision reward persistence.

I was fortunate enough to find the 2005 Folio Society edition, a boxed set of all four of Hobsbawm's "Ages", in a local used bookstore. It is a pleasure to read such a well-made book. The paper is opaque and white, the type is clear, and the illustrations are excellent. Too bad that book manufacture of this caliber is such a rarity.
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LibraryThing member wfzimmerman
I found this at a garage sale on 7th street and bought it because it is a first edition of a famous book inscribed by an academic figure who is noteworthy in his own right.

Note the amusing R-rated illustration on the front cover, symbolizing the marriage of railroads and the bare-breasted spirit of
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perhaps either liberty or bourgeois taste.
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LibraryThing member the.ken.petersen
I may be too ignorant to comment upon what appears to be an academically praised book, but for me, as an interested outsider, this book failed to make history live.
It reminded me of the turgid books of my youth: sitting in a history lesson with a host of facts, figures and dates sailing over my,
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ever more comatose head. I am sure that Mr Hobsbawm is to academe what Bart Simpson is to over-aged school children but, sadly, his style does not reach this amateur historian.
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LibraryThing member yoursources
[The author] traces with brilliant analytical clarity the transformation brought about in every sphere of European life by the Dual Revolution – the 1789 French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution that originated in Britain. This enthralling and original account highlights the significant
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sixty years when industrial capitalism established itself in Western Europe and when Europe established the domination over the rest of the world it was to hold for a century.
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LibraryThing member nog
Considered a classic. I found his long sentence constructions awkward, necessitating one to reread to get his meaning. Bogs down in pedantic glosses, assumes a great deal of background with various political movements. Not for the lay reader, certainly.
LibraryThing member jonfaith
The gods and kings of the past were powerless before the businessmen and steam-engines of the present.

Hobsbawm's survey of these twin explosions (French revolution, Industrial revolution) is a much more melodious affair than I had imagined. The material is addressed in an almost symphonic manner:
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capitalism and its counterpoint. The teetering aristocracy sees France go bankrupt defending our wee American democracy. The involvement of moderates is crucial as they alone weren't burdened with the legacies of the French Revoluitonary excesses: all subsequent revolutions pause at this point, considering the penchant for Terror. Discontent and technological advances chart a new course and the question soon enough becomes, what to do with the surplus population? This largely the story of Britain and France. Greater Europe becomes central to the text with the arrival of Napoleon. Asia and the USA don't feature much and the rest of world hardly at all.
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