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Dividing the century into the Age of Catastrophe, 1914-1950, the Golden Age, 1950-1973, and the Landslide, 1973-1991, Hobsbawm marshals a vast array of data into a volume of unparalleled inclusiveness, vibrancy, and insight, a work that ranks with his classics The Age of Empire and The Age of Revolution. Includes 32 pages of photos.


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Dividing the century into the Age of Catastrophe, 1914-1950, the Golden Age, 1950-1973, and the Landslide, 1973-1991, Hobsbawm marshals a vast array of data into a volume of unparalleled inclusiveness, vibrancy, and insight, a work that ranks with his classics The Age of Empire and The Age of Revolution. Includes 32 pages of photos.

30 review for The Age of Extremes: A History of the World, 1914-1991

  1. 5 out of 5

    howl of minerva

    So that rounds off Hobsbawm's tetralogy on the 19th and 20th centuries. 2000-odd pages of sustained historical brilliance that have changed the way I comprehend the world. In the absence of gods (and our inability to step outside of history to view it objectively) the nearest that we can come to a god's eye view is human genius. Hobsbawm is undoubtedly such a genius, as evidenced by the universal praise this series has received from writers across the political spectrum. "I continue to believe t So that rounds off Hobsbawm's tetralogy on the 19th and 20th centuries. 2000-odd pages of sustained historical brilliance that have changed the way I comprehend the world. In the absence of gods (and our inability to step outside of history to view it objectively) the nearest that we can come to a god's eye view is human genius. Hobsbawm is undoubtedly such a genius, as evidenced by the universal praise this series has received from writers across the political spectrum. "I continue to believe that his great tetralogy – The Age of Revolution (1962), The Age of Industry (1975), The Age of Empire (1987) and The Age of Extremes (1994) – remains the best introduction to modern world history in the English language" writes a man whose political views could not be further from Hobsbawm's: Niall Ferguson. An apparently omniscient, polyglot and polymathic erudition across the fields of economic, social, cultural and political history is an inexplicable feat. But in addition, Hobsbawm gathers these threads and weaves them into a coherent narrative with a verve and acerbic wit that blow the dust off those source tomes and bring them to life, in colour. A gift for phrasemaking surely doesn't hurt. Fascists are "the revolutionaries of counter-revolution." Women of the twentieth century are "suspended between the impermanence of their age and the permanence of their sex." In modern ethno-nationalism, "increasingly, one's identity had to be constructed by insisting on the non-identity of others". Hobsbawm's approach is perhaps best outlined in his description of Niels Bohr's complementarity: "There could be no single, directly comprehensive model. The only way of seizing reality was by reporting it in different ways, and putting them all together to complement each other in an 'exhaustive overlay of different descriptions that incorporate apparently contradictory notions'." The great ideological struggles of the twentieth century have given way (at least in 'developed' countries) to a pervading individualism and the secular theocracy of the market. As Marx well understood, these forces have been the greatest engines for material, technological and scientific progress that mankind has ever seen. But the cracks that these forces, unchecked, are inducing in our personal, societal and environmental worlds are widening. For how much longer can they be plastered and papered over? Das Dasein ist je in seinem faktischen Sein wie und 'was' es schon war. Ob ausdrücklich oder nicht, ist es seine Vergangenheit. (SuZ 20). The human being, in its actual Being, is in each individual case 'what' and how it already has been. Whether explicitly or not, it is its past. (Heidegger). For anyone interested in understanding the modern world and their place in it, a sound grasp of modern history is indispensable. There is no better to place to start than with these books.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Clif

    History can be written in different ways. Barbara Tuchman, for example, chooses a theme (The Proud Tower) or a person (A Distant Mirror) around which to tell of the times. School textbooks simply follow a timeline, a guarantee not only of boredom but that the reader will learn next to nothing. Eric Hobsbawm writes with the intent of a comprehensive understanding of the times. His technique is to look upon history as a jewel of many facets, each of which is worth viewing and all of which are nece History can be written in different ways. Barbara Tuchman, for example, chooses a theme (The Proud Tower) or a person (A Distant Mirror) around which to tell of the times. School textbooks simply follow a timeline, a guarantee not only of boredom but that the reader will learn next to nothing. Eric Hobsbawm writes with the intent of a comprehensive understanding of the times. His technique is to look upon history as a jewel of many facets, each of which is worth viewing and all of which are necessary to approach understanding of the whole. I've never read a better history than this one. The subject matter, the times in which I have lived much of my life, offers the chance to compare my own take on what I have known with the far more comprehensive understanding that Hobsbawm provides. Feminism, plate tectonics, quantum theory, fascism, video entertainment, the Cold War, free-market economics and so much more are served up fully, but are never bogged down with too much detail. The intimate connection between society, the individual and the ideologies of the 20th century are put together deftly with a clarity that allows deep but quick reading. Not a single page is boring because Hobsbawm's breadth of knowledge leaves nothing hanging unattached, out of context. He terms the period he covers "the short 20th century", bounded by the October Revolution in Russia in 1917 and the dissolution of the USSR in 1989. These boundaries mark the end of one era with the First World War and the end of another with the collapse of the only remaining challenge to capitalism. How well did capitalism do over this period? Could communism have been called a success at any point? What was the single thing without which there would have been no Hitler? What is fascism and how is it distinct from totalitarianism? What explained the popularity of Ronald Reagan? Is Mick Jagger an artist in the same way as was Renoir? What was Dada and Bauhaus? What a shame this book could not be a text in schools below college level - yet it could not be because an adult reader can bring so much life-knowledge to the reading, about which a young person would be clueless. For the adult reader, the many pages will fly by. This book is a rainbow at the end of which is a pot full of understanding. Thank goodness there are such people as Hobsbawm, whose wisdom and intelligence has been applied to historical work that benefits us all. Oh - there is one thing that he misses that is a major oversight, maybe because it is so all-encompassing - and that is the pace of life has increased tremendously since the early horse-drawn carriage days of the early 1900's to today. It isn't just professional athletes, though they are symptomatic, the whole developed world is on steroids with no letup in sight.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    I remember, a long time ago I read this when it was first published in 1994 - I was a social history student at Swansea Uni - and my lecturer told me this book was a 'departure for Hobsbawm'. I never quite or fully understood what she meant back all those years ago. My second re-read, and I still do not understand what she really meant, although being older and allegedly more wiser, I still fail to fully grasp her meaning. However, what I think she meant was Eric Hobsbawms stance on Soviet Russi I remember, a long time ago I read this when it was first published in 1994 - I was a social history student at Swansea Uni - and my lecturer told me this book was a 'departure for Hobsbawm'. I never quite or fully understood what she meant back all those years ago. My second re-read, and I still do not understand what she really meant, although being older and allegedly more wiser, I still fail to fully grasp her meaning. However, what I think she meant was Eric Hobsbawms stance on Soviet Russia; he more or less takes strips from the Eastern Bloc and what it lead to, and what was most interesting believes that an experiment like it will never happen again. This is coming from a famous Marxist historian whom was a Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) member. He takes an objective stance on the state-planned economies of the Soviet Bloc, and whilst Soviet Russia was one of the countries that had escaped the stock market collapse of 1929 and the Great Depression that followed it due to its state-run five year plans that saw Russia become an industrial power house, it didn't stop the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of Soviet Russia between 1989 and 1991, where this book ends. It is an aptly titled book. The Twentieth Century, or at least starting from 1914 through to 1991 (hence why it is called 'short') was probably the most bloodiest but also the most technically advanced century ever. Two massive global conflicts, a major economic collapse during the inter war years, the rise of political extremes that sparked off the second world conflict, a period of economic growth after the second world war that has never been equaled, the 1960s counter-culture wave, and the collapse of the Soviet Bloc characterises these years. Eric Hobsbawm writes in a manner that is not too academic or dry, but this book is packed full of interesting researched facts and analyses, and the chapters on the arts, stemming from the early 20thC (avant-garde) right through to 'modern-art' (however we interpret it today) were really insightful. Both art forms are tied into the eras they were developed in, more or less being mirrors of the society that they inhabited. The final chapter I found really hit a chord that resonated loudly. Eric Hobsbawm explains the collapse of the 'golden years', the years following WW2 that saw unprecedented economic growth and prosperity, from the 1970s onwards that never saw a return to the growth on the same scale. At the time he finishes his study in 1991, the world looked quite bleak even though the collapse of the Soviet Union saw a 'victory' for free market economies and the stagnation of state planned ones. He becomes quite prophetical and also quite depressed (if that is the correct world to use) about the future; he more or less predicted our current economic woes - that we have hit another, quite severe, slump, something inherent in free market economies he claims. I would like to read what Eric Hobsbawm would make of our current world situation, and seeing as this historian is still alive (according to wikipedia he is an impressive 94 years old), and has lived through this century that he writes about would be more than interesting. Great history.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Federico Damian

    Not a history book Hosbawm's "The Age Of Extremes..." is, best described as "A collection of Marxist Thesis on the 20th Century" than a history book. Perhaps an even better title is "A collection of Hosbawm's highly biased comment on a few 20th century historical facts". Over the course of its roughly 400-500 pages, Hosbawm does his best make the non-communist (read: capitalist) nations look like complete monsters. He is, of course, right in that the capitalist nations often commited attrocities Not a history book Hosbawm's "The Age Of Extremes..." is, best described as "A collection of Marxist Thesis on the 20th Century" than a history book. Perhaps an even better title is "A collection of Hosbawm's highly biased comment on a few 20th century historical facts". Over the course of its roughly 400-500 pages, Hosbawm does his best make the non-communist (read: capitalist) nations look like complete monsters. He is, of course, right in that the capitalist nations often commited attrocities and war crimes, but his systematic efforts in making communism look better than it actually was achieve ignomious proportions. He stops for entire pages to comment on the wrongdoings of the United States and the United Nations towards the "poor" communist nations, yet he only mentions the horrific acts in communist nations (for example the Tiananmen Square Massacre or the Soviet Gulags) in cryptic and offhanded references. He goes so far as to state that Orwell was wrong in classifying Stalinism as a totalitarian dictatorship. How someone can actually defend the stalinist regime is beyond me. This is a book only for people that know history, since on many ocassions the reader is expected to already know what happened at a particular time period. The books only function seems to be to describe some of the historicall currents the world was subject to in the 20th century. To be fair, both the chapters on the beginning of the 20th century and the ones dealing with the "The Fall of Socialism" (that deals with the last days of the Soviet Union) are excellent. If anything it does seem that Hosbawn was unusually interested in writing about these two things and put all of his effort into it. There are also chapters dedicated to the arts at the end of each of the three main sections of the book and devote very little space to explore the more recognizable changes of the century. The creation of comic books, the fall of the Hays Code (which is mentioned exactly once in an easy to overlook sentence) the comics code, the inclusion of violence in comic books and other important facts are left out, because Mr. Hosbawm feels his readers will be more interested in architecture and fahsion. Rock music and its subgeneres are also left mostly unexplored. There is also a chapter dedicated to the scientific advances of the "short century" which is somewhat acceptably written. Of course it serves only to underscore Hosbawms own beliefs. Whenever Russia takes questionable agricultural desitions, unsupported by actual science it is presented in a neutral fashion, but when the Catholic Church accepts the Big Bang Theory they are "extracting consolation from it". There are also a few errors in this chapter. For example his claim that "a theory cannot be complete and consistent at the same time" is a missunderstanding of Gödel's incompleteness theorem (in fact there are theories known to be complete *and* consistent). It should instead read "A *sufficiently powerfull system* cannot be complete and consistent at the same time". Of course, this is a common missunderstanding, but one would expect that Hosbawm would counsult with mathematicians before writing about advanced mathematics. The books ends with a somewhat aceptable summary of the century and Hosbawm's own conclussion of what the future challenges are. This is surprisingly a very good and accurate summary. All in all, the readers might be able to get something useful out of this book, but only readers who are already knowledgeable in 20th century history.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mesut Bostancı

    Usually the only people tackling long general histories are conservatives. The Marxists are too busy arguing over minutiae to lend their worldview to great spans of time. So Hobsbawm offers something that was definitely missing. Even though I knew most of the events of which he spoke, he offers sort of grandfatherly perspective to what the hell happened over the last 100 years, and makes the young solipsistic leftist like me feel better, not so cast adrift in history. As long as it's not conserv Usually the only people tackling long general histories are conservatives. The Marxists are too busy arguing over minutiae to lend their worldview to great spans of time. So Hobsbawm offers something that was definitely missing. Even though I knew most of the events of which he spoke, he offers sort of grandfatherly perspective to what the hell happened over the last 100 years, and makes the young solipsistic leftist like me feel better, not so cast adrift in history. As long as it's not conservative revisionist crap, which I can now smell from a mile away, it sort of feels like everytime I learn something about history, it is a political act. It is 'conscientization'.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    It is fortunate that Hobsbawm wrote this book as early as 1994, when the “fall of Communism” still appeared to be a world-shattering event, because, more than anything else, this is what he documents. I doubt that any historian, writing a “grand synthesis” of contemporary history today, would place so much emphasis on that event. It probably helps that Hobsbawm was himself a Marxist historian who had supported the USSR during its most “extreme” period – that of the leadership of Josef Stalin – a It is fortunate that Hobsbawm wrote this book as early as 1994, when the “fall of Communism” still appeared to be a world-shattering event, because, more than anything else, this is what he documents. I doubt that any historian, writing a “grand synthesis” of contemporary history today, would place so much emphasis on that event. It probably helps that Hobsbawm was himself a Marxist historian who had supported the USSR during its most “extreme” period – that of the leadership of Josef Stalin – and remained largely unregenerate even at this late date. Hobsbawm himself admitted that he is not really suited to a dispassionate analysis of contemporary history. His greatest contributions to the profession have been his work on 19th Century labor and social history. Nevertheless, he brings his not inconsiderable training and talents as a historian to the task and does provide a fascinatingly thorough analysis of the age. Having been a major advocate for a “Long Nineteenth Century,” analyzed from 1789 (the French Revolution) to 1914 (the outbreak of the First World War), he now extends this thesis to suggest a “Short Twentieth Century” which is bounded essentially by the lifespan of the Soviet Union. The analysis he provides is very strong on economic issues and geo-politics, and also should be credited for maintaining a far more global perspective than most histories written in the West. Hobsbawm never loses sight of the “rest of the world,” even when Europe appears to be taking center stage (as during the First World War and the Treaty of Versailles). Nearly every page contains fascinating facts and information, even when one does not agree with all of his conclusions. I feel that some of the best discussion in this book concerns the inter-war period and the rise of international Communist and Fascist movements, which is largely the reason for the title “Age of Extremes.” While his work is synthetic and does not add anything to the study of these areas, it is extremely wide-ranging and informative and useful for someone trying to understand this period without a specialist background. As one would expect, there is a great deal of discussion of the history of the USSR, and while his predisposition is visible here, he does not flinch from describing gulags, purges, and famines where they contribute to the story. This book is worth reading for anyone preparing to teach a course concerned with any period of the twentieth century and a good “starter text” for new Graduate Students. It is probably too long and too biased for use with undergraduates, although sections could be carefully culled and added to reading packages. As I suggested at the outset, it is also a kind of time capsule from the mid-90s, demonstrating what seemed important about history at the time. I hope to have time one day to return to it myself, and see how well it has worn the test of decades.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    The Age of Extremes: A History of the World 1914-1991 takes as its subject matter what its author, Eric J. Hobsbawm, calls "the short twentieth century," ranging from the start of World War One to the breakup of the Soviet Union. An avowed communist in his sympathies, Hobsbawm nonetheless writes a remarkably balanced history of his times, with interesting sidelights on the art and science of the century. In general, I prefer Tony Judt's Postwar for some of the same period, though I like Hobsbawm' The Age of Extremes: A History of the World 1914-1991 takes as its subject matter what its author, Eric J. Hobsbawm, calls "the short twentieth century," ranging from the start of World War One to the breakup of the Soviet Union. An avowed communist in his sympathies, Hobsbawm nonetheless writes a remarkably balanced history of his times, with interesting sidelights on the art and science of the century. In general, I prefer Tony Judt's Postwar for some of the same period, though I like Hobsbawm's classification of the "short century" into "The Age of Catastrophe" (the two world wars and the period in between), and "The Golden Age" (the postwar period. This latter category I feel is excessively ironical. Admittedly, this book was completed before September 11, 2001 and the ISIS scourge in the Middle East; and before the Great Recession beginning in 2008; but I cannot imagine that anyone would think we are living in a Golden Age. A fool's paradise, perhaps.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    A great appendix to Hobsbawm's history of the long nineteenth century (French Revolution to WWI), and a pretty decent place to start for 20th century history I would say. No complaints. And i'm a real complainer. A great appendix to Hobsbawm's history of the long nineteenth century (French Revolution to WWI), and a pretty decent place to start for 20th century history I would say. No complaints. And i'm a real complainer.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Justin Michael James Dell

    A Not-So-Short (Tendentious) History of the Short Twentieth Century Historiography has come a long way since the age of positivism, when it was conceived as the practice of collating historical "facts" and letting them "speak for themselves", of telling history "as it happened," to paraphrase empiricist Leopold von Ranke. The purview of the historian's profession has now expanded to encompass the pursuit and articulation of a deeper analysis and explication of the meaning of historical facts A Not-So-Short (Tendentious) History of the Short Twentieth Century Historiography has come a long way since the age of positivism, when it was conceived as the practice of collating historical "facts" and letting them "speak for themselves", of telling history "as it happened," to paraphrase empiricist Leopold von Ranke. The purview of the historian's profession has now expanded to encompass the pursuit and articulation of a deeper analysis and explication of the meaning of historical facts read in conjunction with one another, not their mere compilation and narration. In this respect, Hobsbawm has ably carried out his duty in The Age of Extremes, 1914-1991, a historical survey of the so-called "short" twentieth century betwixt the outbreak of the First World War and the collapse of the Soviet Union. I was born in the twilight of that turbulent century, and thus I consider myself a product of that unique phase of human history, an heir to its cumulative impact (for no man can escape the crucible of his respective historical context). But what precisely was its impact? One can only begin to appreciate the thrust of something as extensive as a century - even a "short" one - by looming over it from aloft, which Hobsbawm does on the wings of his advanced contemporary age and command of historical knowledge, bringing the reader into flight with him and periodically swooping down to treat him to a closer look at its particulars. This was precisely the kind of treat I was expecting from Hobsbawm, and he delivered. I walk away from his tome with an idea of the twentieth century as a period of profound and paradoxical progression and regression - hence, “extremes” - in human affairs. Moreover, the seeds of many - perhaps most - of the twenty-first century's most pressing problems were sown in the preceding one hundred years. Apprehension of these general trends makes reading Hobsbawm's book, although a lengthy slog at times, well worth the effort. However, as the modest three-star rating I gave this book suggests, I am not wholly enamoured of it. Hobsbawm is remiss, in my opinion, in his (seemingly intentional) avoidance of certain controversial subjects of key importance to the twentieth century, most notably that of genocide. Apart from a passing glance in its direction (pp. 50-51), there is no meaningful or in-depth engagement of this highly important concept in all 600 pages of a text whose title emphasizes the supposed "extremeness" of the century it purports to describe. That so-called "ethnic cleansings" were a salient idiosyncrasy of the twentieth century can be easily apprehended from their punctuation of its beginning, the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and its end, the massacres in the Balkans and Rwanda, the latter of which unfolded just as Hobsbawm's book was being published. His curious avoidance of the subject of the Holocaust - much less the term - strikes me as very bizarre. Hobsbawm avows that the purpose of his text is not to “tell the story of the period which is its subject,” but rather “to understand and explain why things turned out the way they did, and how they hang together,” but even given this design, such a stunning omission is inexcusable. Then there's the matter of Hobsbawm’s political sympathies; he is, by his own admission, a Marxist. To be fair, I felt that Hobsbawm restrained his politics a lot of the time - or at least tried to - perhaps out of respect for his mainstream readership. Nevertheless, his overt leftism is palpable throughout the text and he is prone to what I can only describe (in McCarthyist parlance) as fellow traveller interpretations of communist regimes. Based on the periodization of the book (1914-1991) one can infer that the rise and fall of the Soviet Union serves as the anchor of Hobsbawm's analysis of the century, and his subtle admiration for that regime is apparent in his rather...sanguine...interpretation of its legacy and his almost comical tendency to rationalize or understate its moral outrages. Hobsbawm's apologetic tone towards the USSR is inversely related to his barely-concealed repugnance toward the USA and dim assessment of its global footprint, an interpretation that appears to be based mostly on traditional British anti-American snobbery, European chauvinism and subaltern claptrap rather than on even-handed judgment. Despite these and other shortcomings, Hobsbawm competently charts the course of the twentieth century, offering sound, if somewhat tendentious, explanations for its key developments and trajectory. His book will help to satisfy two basic questions of the contemporary reader: (1) what brought us to where we are? and (2) what are some of the challenges that face us as we embrace a new century, indeed, a new millennium? Overview Hobsbawm divides the Short Twentieth Century into three periods: the Age of Catastrophe, corresponding to the period between the beginning of the First World War and the ending of the Second, the Golden Age, which encompasses three decades of global prosperity and global economic progress, from 1945 until 1975, topped off by the Crises Decades, the period ranging from the world economic troubles of the late 1970s until the fall of the USSR in 1991. The springboard that determined the course of the twentieth century was, as Hobsbawm calls it, the "thirty-one years' war" (22) stretching from 1914-1945, which rent asunder the "material, intellectual and moral progress" of the so-called "long" nineteenth century (13). This reversal of moral progress is a key, recurring theme with Hobsbawm. He argues, unconvincingly, that the "democratization" of war, by which he means the mutation of (Western?) warfare from limited aristocratic conflicts to total-war national struggles between entire peoples, legitimized the use of torture and evermore brutal forms of coercion, especially when these were seen as "operational necessities" in the paramount victory and survival of a particular warring party, thereby proving "beyond serious doubt" that there was moral regression during the course of the twentieth century (Of this interpretation, I am skeptical. Can one who knows anything about the Belgian colonization of the Congo honestly believe that there was any kind of moral height in the nineteenth century from which humanity descended in the twentieth? There was, owing to technological advancement, an enhancement of the scale of destruction, but that is a logistical matter, not a moral one). The destruction unleashed by the First World War destabilized the globe and was only rectified with the outbreak of the Second. The Russian Revolution added a further complicating factor to the Age of Catastrophe. It posited a second way forward for humanity, one of stark opposition to conventional capitalist development. Hobsbawm makes the ridiculous argument that the Bolsheviks did not foist themselves on the Russian people, but merely responded to their desires: "the radicalized groundswell of their followers pushed the Bolsheviks inevitably towards the seizure of power. In fact, when they moment came, power had not so much to be seized as to be picked up" (62). This sort of the-devil-made-me-do-it explanation should be dismissed as fellow traveller propaganda. He further argues that the backward peasant demographics of Russia "pressed" the Bolsheviks into abolishing any kind of democracy in the area which they controlled, thereby resorting to the progressive argument that 'the few' instinctively knew was was better for 'the many' and were therefore justified in confiscating the latter's freedom. In any event, the October Revolution was an "earth-shaking" event, but Hobsbawm recognizes that it was stillborn from the beginning; the Bolshevik vision could only really be realized if the revolution spread to the rest of the globe, and when that eminently failed to happen by 1920, the Soviet regime was thereby exiled to the landmass of the former Tsarist empire, and forced to develop in isolation from the rest of the world (66-67). This played directly into the hands of Stalin, who modified the original Bolshevik vision to mean "socialism in one country" and proceeded to build up the USSR at the expense of fomenting revolution elsewhere in the world. Just as this was transpiring, the Western world was entering the Great Slump of economic hardship known as the Great Depression, an economic downturn that Hobsbawm attributes to the destruction of the First World War and a post-war economic world system that depended on German war reparations and U.S. loans. Although fluctuations are simply an inevitable part of a capitalist economy, the Great Depression was a ditch out of which the capitalist system appeared incapable of extricating itself. And this is the decisive point: the economic malaise of the 1930s, coupled with the preceding destruction wrought by the Great War, "was a catastrophe which destroyed all hope of restoring the economy, and the society, of the long nineteenth century. The period 1929-1933 was a canyon which henceforth made a return to 1913 not merely impossible, but unthinkable" (107). For Hobsbawm, the Depression vindicated Keynesian economics in two respects. First, no solution to the economic malaise was found apart from government intervention and regulation of the economy - in other words the market, left alone, did not 'fix' itself. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the concomitant rise of fascism in central Europe demonstrated the social need for interventionist economics, particularly full employment, for an impecunious and disengaged population proved to be receptive to Hitlerian political agitation. Thus, by the mid-1930s, with Russia and Eastern Europe firmly in the hands of communists, and Central Europe in the grip of fascism, liberal democracy and capitalism were confined to the western fringe of that continent. Their only hope of salvation was reform and modulation of classical liberalism itself. This process was already underway to a certain extent with FDR's "New Deal" in the United States, and it eventually became necessary for Western Europe to follow suit as the crisis in capitalism became more apparent. Moreover, the bellicosity of fascism eventually forced Western democracies to tilt to the Left ideologically as some of the original revulsion towards socialistic institutions yielded to a more acute fear of fascism. Hobsbawm chalks this up to the fact that fascism, while itself an extreme reaction to Bolshevism in Russia, was ultimately even more incompatible with the Western powers because it was essentially a German phenomenon. Hobsbawm is adamant that Nazism could not be transplanted to other states, and that its worldview was fundamentally at odds even with that of conservative elements in countries such as Great Britain. This eventually produced a "united front" of disparate elements in all of the non-fascist countries - what Hobsbawm elsewhere refers to as the "era of anti-fascism" - uniting conservative imperialistic throwbacks like Winston Churchill with elements of the Communist International to defeat Hitler on the basis that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". Hobsbawm declaims: "In many ways this period of capitalist-communist alliance against fascism - essentially the 1930s and 1940s - forms the hinge of twentieth-century history and its decisive moment", for "it is one of the ironies of this strange century that the most lasting results of the October [Russian] revolution, whose object was the global overthrow of capitalism, was to save its antagonist, both in war and in peace - that is to say, by providing it with the incentive, fear, to reform itself after the Second World War, and, by establishing the popularity of economic planning, furnishing it with some of the procedures for its reform" (7-8). This rapprochement between the capitalist world and the socialist camp did not survive the end of the successfully-prosecuted Second World War. Nevertheless, as the front between capitalism and communism congealed "from Stettin to Trieste" as the Cold War set in, the structural changes to Western democracies that came as a result of their wartime shift to the Left remained in place, even in America, where there was no return to classical liberalism. This paved the way for what Hobsbawm calls the "Golden Era", the third quarter of the twentieth century in which not only the developed world, but the developing world experienced profound economic growth. This period "marked the end of the seven or eight millennia of human history that began with the invention of agriculture in the stone age, if only because it ended the long era when the overwhelming majority of the human race lived by growing food and herding animals" (9). This era was characterized by the proliferation of the welfare state and near full employment (the unemployment rate was 1.5% in Europe during this period). The greatest immediate threat to this prosperity came from the spectre of a nuclear exchange between the two superpowers. Hobsbawm avers that the concept of mutually assured destruction (M.A.D.) should have rendered this a remote possibility, but for what he considers the damnable recklessness of United States' foreign policy (surprise, surprise!); supposedly benighted and apocalyptically-minded Americans were manipulated by their cynical, vote-grubbing demagogic politicians (think Joseph McCarthy and Ronald Reagan), the latter of whom consistently threatened to up the ante of nuclear confrontation for domestic political gain. It was Americans who infused the conflict with "crusader rhetoric", he declaims. The greatest long-term threat to Golden Age prosperity came from prosperity itself. In the fascinating middle of Hobsbawm's text - where his powers of analysis are probably at their most acute - he demonstrates that the welfare state and affluence eroded social capital, particularly the class-consciousness of the working class. Life became individualized and fractures formed between certain segments of the proletariat, in which "I" took precedence over "we". Lines between labour and management became blurred. This was coupled with technological displacement of industrial labour which further reduced the proportion of blue-collar citizens in Western countries and created the 'rustbelt' phenomenon. However, the welfare state guaranteed the minimum living standards of people thrown out of labour jobs, creating an underclass of indigents. They had no one to rely on but the state. For who else was there to turn to? Coupled with this revolution in the economic order, there was a social revolution during the same period. The rise of untrammelled individualism accompanied the destruction of the family as divorce rates soared. To my surprise, Hobsbawm bemoans the student radicalism of this period which, he asserts, had more to do with anarchism and hedonistic self-indulgence than the classical Marxism it claimed to identify with. Individual desire became the measuring rod of what was 'good'. During the Crisis Decades, this cultural hyper-individualism, coupled with the economic malaise, paved the way for the sages of neoliberalism, an ideology which sought to return the world economy back to the economic individualism of the nineteenth century. Thatcherite Britain and Reaganite America of the 1980s were the paragons of this shift to laissez-faire economics. Hobsbawm does not conceal his annoyance that the communist economies of the Eastern bloc were collapsing just as neoliberalism was being touted as the wave of the future in the West, thereby allowing the scions of von Hayek and Friedman to claim credit for the former's downfall. In fact, Soviet collapse was the result of the Kremlin's deferral of badly-needed reform. As previously mentioned, Hobsbawm believes that the germ cells of the Soviet Union's collapse were present at the beginning of its existence. The system of crash industrialization based on a military-style communist party command structure was able to produce a Soviet society in which the state guaranteed a minimum level of existence for its population (food, clothing, shelter) but not much else. As the world economy moved beyond heavy industry to more knowledge- and information-based industries, the Soviets fell increasingly behind. Rather than reform their socio-political structure they relied on oil exports until the structural deficiencies of the regime were unavoidable. Perestroika and glasnost were last ditch reforms that undermined the military-style structure that had allowed the Soviet Union to survive all this time, precipitating its collapse. With its chief ideological competitor in the grave, neoliberalism reigned ascendant - until the economic downturn of the early 1990s demonstrated its own limitations. Hobsbawm considers this nadir of the Crisis Decades proof that laissez-faire economics itself is not viable, that Adam Smith's 'Invisible Hand' proved to be a mirage time and time again during the twentieth century when government had to intervene to jumpstart and regulate anarchic and failed economies. But in what seems like a plot-hole in his analysis, the Keynesian economics of the Golden Age was likewise unsustainable even by Hobsbawm's own admission. So, what then, is the solution? Hobsbawm concedes that a return to classical Keynesian economics is no longer a possibility in a world in which the nation-state and its traditional powers and mechanisms to control the economy are rapidly prostrating themselves before the mercy of the globalized marketplace. And at the same time, the rapidly expanding population of the Third World and the increasing international and intranational economic stratification of humanity makes the need for some kind of reform to the global economic system that much more urgent: "If these [Crisis] decades proved anything it was that the major political problem of the world, and certainly of the developed world, was not how to multiply the wealth of nations, but how to distribute it for the benefit of their inhabitants" (577). But how is this to be done? Hobsbawm has no solution for the reader other than some vague sense of badly-needed "reform". But, as he points out, there is scarcely impetus for such reform right now, in a world in which unbridled capitalism has no real competitor anymore - whether it be fascism, communism, or another Great Depression - challenges that encouraged a return to "realism," as he puts it . The conclusion is a kind of pessimistic, hand-wringing despair from Hobsbawm. This impetus to reform, he speculates, may eventually come from the global environmental degradation that the marketplace is unable or unwilling to correct when simply left to itself. Final Words The greatest irony of The Age of Extremes is its year of publication (1994) and periodization (1914-1991). Cynically echoing Francis Fukuyama's "End of History" thesis of the same period, but giving it a more pessimistic bent, Hobsbawm avers that: "there can be no serious doubt that in the late 1980s and early 1990s an era in world history ended and a new one began. That is the essential information for historians of the century" (5). But can this really be said, in hindsight? Will not historians extend the "Short" Twentieth Century just a little bit longer, to 2001? For wasn't that more truly the watershed year between one era and another. For those who have lived to experience it, the 1990s are a bygone and halcyon period scarcely recognizable today; I doubt any reasonable mind would merge them with the post-9/11 world.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    I found this book extremely difficult to read. Hobsbawm was born in Egypt to Viennese parents who spoke English in the home, and his syntax seems to have been permanently ruined by the experience. For example, what are we to make of this sentance? For if divorce, illegitimate, births and the rise of the single-parent (i.e. overwhelmingly the single-mother) household indicated a crisis in the relation between the sexes, the rise of a specific, and extraordinarily powerful youth culture indicated I found this book extremely difficult to read. Hobsbawm was born in Egypt to Viennese parents who spoke English in the home, and his syntax seems to have been permanently ruined by the experience. For example, what are we to make of this sentance? For if divorce, illegitimate, births and the rise of the single-parent (i.e. overwhelmingly the single-mother) household indicated a crisis in the relation between the sexes, the rise of a specific, and extraordinarily powerful youth culture indicated a profound change in the relation between the generations. He apparently uses the term 'order of magnitude' to mean 'approximate'; perhaps he fails to understand it is a term with a real scientific meaning. And he loves the phrase 'looked like' as in the Germans looked like winning. The reader also needs to understand this is not a 'history' in any ordinary sense of the word. It is more nearly a series of essays on the history of the twentieth century world. You should already have a grasp of the history in order to read and understand this book. Having said all that, if you can stumble through the thicket that is Hobsbawm's syntax, there are a few insights you can pick up along the way. Hobsbawm is a noted British Marxist historian, and he is able to identify patterns and trends in history that other writers usually ignore. He is especially interesting on the fall of the Soviet Union. I also found his commentary on the origins of the trend of women working outside the household to be thought-provoking. But were the insights worth the effort? I'm not so sure...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steve Cooper

    While the author comes to the conclusion that people generally have better lives when their governments' redistribution policies prevent significant wealth inequality and are widely accepted by the populace, the analysis Hobsbawm employs to arrive at that conclusion is not limited by any religious, ideological or economic dogma. Not only does the book predict many of the phenomena we're encountering now, but its focus on the actors and forces with the most persistent and profound presence in hist While the author comes to the conclusion that people generally have better lives when their governments' redistribution policies prevent significant wealth inequality and are widely accepted by the populace, the analysis Hobsbawm employs to arrive at that conclusion is not limited by any religious, ideological or economic dogma. Not only does the book predict many of the phenomena we're encountering now, but its focus on the actors and forces with the most persistent and profound presence in history (a clarity that clearly owes a debt of gratitude to Marx) provides a perspective that we can use to understand current events. Wisdom, gentle humour and statistics have rarely been combined so effectively.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea Szendi

    The first time I read this, I was a fussy new grad student, given to pick on anything. On second reading, this book simply amazes me. Bedtime reading for the kids.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gabe Steller

    Wooooohooo I finally finished all four of these damn books!! And this one was like almost twice as long and I fuckin swear to god the type was EVEN SMALLER so it should count as fuckin two books but whatever. Despite small type was still siiiick and maybe my second favorite. super enlightening chapters on the social world of the working classes in the 1910s-30s and discussion of culture under communism vs. capitalism. But esp loved the 70’s-91 part cuz that’s all this deterioration really started Wooooohooo I finally finished all four of these damn books!! And this one was like almost twice as long and I fuckin swear to god the type was EVEN SMALLER so it should count as fuckin two books but whatever. Despite small type was still siiiick and maybe my second favorite. super enlightening chapters on the social world of the working classes in the 1910s-30s and discussion of culture under communism vs. capitalism. But esp loved the 70’s-91 part cuz that’s all this deterioration really started. And towards the end hes talking about the new millennium and hes like man seems like theres a lot of mass shootings in America, and it seems like the undermining of public sector govt’s unable to deal with true catastrophes, and the ever growing strength of capital is sabotaging nations and their democracies all over the world, and frustrated populations may drift towards demagogues. I mean fuck you are you kidding me!! We could see all this shit in 1991 and we could barely even begin to THINK ABOUT doing anything about it in 30 years!! F*@&$%%#$#ck!!!!!

  14. 4 out of 5

    Alexandra

    I'm not giving this book a rating for a couple of reasons: I didn't read the whole lot, and it wasn't what I was hoping for. I was hoping for a book to give me a good overview of the bits of the 20th century I need to teach my yr11 course. It didn't do that; not that much on WW1, and little on the early part of the Cold War, although some interesting and useful comments on both. It said nothing about the suffragette movement, which was disappointing, although I guess it didn't fit into his theme I'm not giving this book a rating for a couple of reasons: I didn't read the whole lot, and it wasn't what I was hoping for. I was hoping for a book to give me a good overview of the bits of the 20th century I need to teach my yr11 course. It didn't do that; not that much on WW1, and little on the early part of the Cold War, although some interesting and useful comments on both. It said nothing about the suffragette movement, which was disappointing, although I guess it didn't fit into his theme of extremes and catastrophes; also didn't have that much about the American/Vietnam War. So I only read a couple of chapters. I quite liked his style - a bit rambly, and some interesting and challenging ways of looking at events and the long view of history. I'd like to say that this is the sort of book I would go back to, some time... and it would be, if only my TBR pile weren't quite so in danger of toppling and killing someone.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Matt Allen

    I read this with a ton of hope: I heard this guy was a british national treasure and one of the most famous living historians. But the only thing I took from the book was his (I think accurate) theory that the 20th century was "short" and could be described as the period between the start of WWI and the end of the cold war. The rest of it was pretty forgettable. I think he's one of those historians that only makes sense if you've already spent a lifetime reading history and know the landscape pr I read this with a ton of hope: I heard this guy was a british national treasure and one of the most famous living historians. But the only thing I took from the book was his (I think accurate) theory that the 20th century was "short" and could be described as the period between the start of WWI and the end of the cold war. The rest of it was pretty forgettable. I think he's one of those historians that only makes sense if you've already spent a lifetime reading history and know the landscape pretty well. His digressions and impressions were not structured enough, logically or even chronologically. I'll go back to it when I'm a bitter old man and probably like it.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Praveen SR

    A sweeping history of the "short twentieth century", of the tumultuous period between a World War and the dissolution of Soviet Union. As is typical of Hobsbawm, we are not limited not just to the political changes of the era, but everything from the change in the nature of labour, the myriad changes in the sphere of culture and technological and scientific advancements, for which the wars in between had a major role to play. It is not quite easy to fit the whole century into a 600 page book, bu A sweeping history of the "short twentieth century", of the tumultuous period between a World War and the dissolution of Soviet Union. As is typical of Hobsbawm, we are not limited not just to the political changes of the era, but everything from the change in the nature of labour, the myriad changes in the sphere of culture and technological and scientific advancements, for which the wars in between had a major role to play. It is not quite easy to fit the whole century into a 600 page book, but Hobsbawm manages to distill all of it, without leaving hardly anything out.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Pavel

    Well, as I don´t like them totalitarian ideas, this history book by a Communist was not very appetising. Some parts are rather disgusting.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Lejla Ahmetagić

    I completely agree with Guardian review: A masterpiece.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Bevan Lewis

    I started at the end, chronologically speaking with this addendum to Eric Hobsbawm's much admired "Age of" sequence. The book by its nature is more than just historical analysis, with personal observation and reflection informing its analysis. On its own terms it is an excellent book for gaining an understanding of cause and effect in the twentieth century. It is not a narrative and those less familiar with the events would be better with Martin Gilbert or John Roberts' efforts. Hobsbawm certainl I started at the end, chronologically speaking with this addendum to Eric Hobsbawm's much admired "Age of" sequence. The book by its nature is more than just historical analysis, with personal observation and reflection informing its analysis. On its own terms it is an excellent book for gaining an understanding of cause and effect in the twentieth century. It is not a narrative and those less familiar with the events would be better with Martin Gilbert or John Roberts' efforts. Hobsbawm certainly popularised the notion of the short twentieth century (1914 - 1991), a periodisation which is now widely used. Within that he discusses three sub periods: the age of catastrophe, the Golden age and the age of crisis. This is not a light book. It is not necessarily hard to read but it is rich in content and thought. The paperback has almost 600 pages of densely packed ideas, and I often found myself re-reading paragraphs. Again not because they're not clear, just that there is a lot of thought to take in. Because of Hobsbawm's Marxist background a lot of people immediately attack him, some quite venomously once he was safely in the grave (e.g. A N Wilson). The only word for that is cowardly. Actually reading this book on its own terms Hobsbawm clearly identifies the problems, flaws and cruelties in "really existing socialism" and the other totalitarian regimes of the age of catastrophe in the first half of the century. Stalin is described as "an autocrat of exceptional, some might say unique, ferocity, ruthlessness and lack of scruple". He describes Soviet collectivisation as a failure. He also gives a deft analysis of the fall of communism in the 1980s. He effectively describes "the weaknesses of the self-serving party bureaucracy of the Brezhnev era; a combination of incompetence and corruption" and is stinging about Maoism. Make no mistake, Hobsbawm sees plenty of flaws in capitalism and doesn't believe it is sustainable. His discussion about growing inequality, climatic effects, globalisation and the challenges of population growth could have come out of yesterday's newspaper (the book was published in 1994). But to get the impression from a few critics that he is a rabid unapologetic Stalinist certainly will cause you to miss out on a lot of fascinating insights from this book. He identifies key transformations through the century - diminishing Eurocentrism, globalisation and stronger transnational interconnections, and the disintegration of connections between individuals, a self-centredness. This book really got me thinking and reflecting and gives a good historical framework for understanding contemporary events.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Patrick Bair

    Hobsbawm's historic "trilogy in four volumes" is essential for any student of history, and enjoyable reading even for those who aren't. While each "Age of" volume is independent, there is nothing comparable to reading all four in order. And while each was vastly informative, I think I enjoyed his final work, "The Age of Extremes," about "the short Twentieth Century" (1914-1990), most. It's amazing to me how little we know about the very time in which we live, but Hobsbawm brings a depth and brea Hobsbawm's historic "trilogy in four volumes" is essential for any student of history, and enjoyable reading even for those who aren't. While each "Age of" volume is independent, there is nothing comparable to reading all four in order. And while each was vastly informative, I think I enjoyed his final work, "The Age of Extremes," about "the short Twentieth Century" (1914-1990), most. It's amazing to me how little we know about the very time in which we live, but Hobsbawm brings a depth and breadth to the history that is unparalleled. Highly recommend.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tony Gualtieri

    Hobsbawm is a provocative guide to the "Short Twentieth Century." He is usually labeled a Marxist historian, but from reading his tetralogy, of which this is the final volume, I see him more as a writer not in thrall to capitalist triumphalism. He's certainly not a free marketeer, his loathing for economists is palpable, but neither is he an apologist for Stalin. His chapter on the last years of the USSR, analyzing what was gained and lost in its fall, is a masterpiece of historical perception, Hobsbawm is a provocative guide to the "Short Twentieth Century." He is usually labeled a Marxist historian, but from reading his tetralogy, of which this is the final volume, I see him more as a writer not in thrall to capitalist triumphalism. He's certainly not a free marketeer, his loathing for economists is palpable, but neither is he an apologist for Stalin. His chapter on the last years of the USSR, analyzing what was gained and lost in its fall, is a masterpiece of historical perception, more remarkable in that it was penned only a few years after 1989.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lea

    I read this because I had to, otherwise I would have quit right in the beginning. Dense, hard to read, boring and essentially an extremely long eulogy to the USSR (which if you believe Hobsbawm was both benevolent and basically harmless) and Communism in general.

  23. 5 out of 5

    BertieRussell

    This book's only rival(known to me)in historical writing, is the previous tome of the series: The Age of Empire. Hobsbawm sets himself the task, of explaining why history took the course it did. His chapters on : The breakdown of patterns of social expectation, the retreat of economic and political liberalism, and the transformation of the arts in the 20th century, are superb. The same encomium should be extended to his prologue: The bird's eye view, and his epilogue, were many of the events hap This book's only rival(known to me)in historical writing, is the previous tome of the series: The Age of Empire. Hobsbawm sets himself the task, of explaining why history took the course it did. His chapters on : The breakdown of patterns of social expectation, the retreat of economic and political liberalism, and the transformation of the arts in the 20th century, are superb. The same encomium should be extended to his prologue: The bird's eye view, and his epilogue, were many of the events happening today in world politics were foreshadowed. For instance the fact that unaccountable institutions wish to depoliticize vital economic issues, thus hollowing out democracy, or the substantial political role performed by the mass media. The curious thing is that although you finish the book wonder-wounded(as Hamlet would put it) Hobsbawm has left some very important questions unanswered. For example the causes of : the :1929-33 Slump, the unprecedented(and as he memorably shows, totally unexpected) expansion of the world economy through the years 1945-1973, and the 1973-today downturn of the economy, are not satisfyingly addressed. A glaring omission (as Perry Anderson noticed) is the disappearance of the bourgeoisie from Hobsbawm's masterpiece. Indirectly of course this points to another process of the 20th century, the complete plebeianization of culture, the death of high-brow art, brilliantly addressed by Hobsbawm in his book Fractured times. In Hobsbawm's opinion, the historian of the third millenium will identify two transformations as the most important of the 20th century: 1)For most men, the middle ages ended in the 50's and 60's, that is, they once and for all stopped living off the land, and migrated to a city. For millenia we could take man's rural existence for granted: the fact that he lived within sight of fields. With the expansion of the world economy in the golden years of capitalism, which had accelerated urbanization as an indirect effect, an epoch for humanity had ended. According to Hobsbawn in it's importance the transformation is comparable to the invention of writing, cities and agriculture. 2)The loosening of sexual inhibitions the autonomy of youth and transformation of relationship and behaviour between the sexes, marks the end of another epoch for Hobsbawm. Until the 60's life was lived by unwritten but compelling rules, gender rules and class rules. This book abounds in classic Hobsbawmian controversial assertions like: One of the great ironies of the history of the 20th century is that Communism saved capitalism twice, first by giving it an incentive to reform in it's frail interwar state and second by the Red army defeating Nazism. Or here's another:' At bottom liberal politics was vulnerable because its characteristic form of government, representative democracy, was rarely a convincing way of running states...' What strikes me is the range of subjects a historian should be conversant with, in order to adequately interpret world events.If you wish to make your flesh crawl with the horrors of the Communist regimes, or wish to see capitalism extolled to the skies, this is not the book for you.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Emil

    Hobsbawm is a very interesting writer. I thoroughly enjoyed large parts of his political and military chapters, I may not agree with all of his points but they were interesting nontheless. It was fascinating to read the thoughts and ideas of a well-read marxist historian on the century he lived through. But some of his passages on art, science and social issues (particularly those pertaining to homosexuality) were troubling and bordering on reactionary. Especially passages such as this one about Hobsbawm is a very interesting writer. I thoroughly enjoyed large parts of his political and military chapters, I may not agree with all of his points but they were interesting nontheless. It was fascinating to read the thoughts and ideas of a well-read marxist historian on the century he lived through. But some of his passages on art, science and social issues (particularly those pertaining to homosexuality) were troubling and bordering on reactionary. Especially passages such as this one about Alan Turing: Turing committed suicide in 1954, after having been convicted of homosexual behaviour, then officially a crime, and believed to be a medically or psychologically curable pathological condition. He could not stand the compulsory 'cure' imposed on him. He was not so much a victim of the criminalisation of (male) homosexuality in Britain before the 1960s as of his own failure to recognize it. His sexual proclivities had raised no problem whatever in the milieu of boarding school, King's College, Cambridge, and among the notorious collection of anomalies and eccentrics in the wartime code-breaking establishment at Bletchley, in which he had passed his life before going to Manchester after the war. Only a man who did not quite recognize the world most people lived in would have gone to the police to complain that a (temporary) boyfriend had robbed his apartment, thus giving the police the opportu­nity to catch two legal delinquents at the same time.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gaurav Moghe

    The Age of Extremes, which covers most of 20th century American and European international politics, is a good read for any one interested in knowing at an intermediate level why things happened the way they did in Euro-US politics. The 20th century is marked by 4 extremely important events: World Wars, the Cold War, and the fall of Berlin wall. Most of the contemporary world politics is a result of these events. I approached this book to get a slightly better and academic view of the events men The Age of Extremes, which covers most of 20th century American and European international politics, is a good read for any one interested in knowing at an intermediate level why things happened the way they did in Euro-US politics. The 20th century is marked by 4 extremely important events: World Wars, the Cold War, and the fall of Berlin wall. Most of the contemporary world politics is a result of these events. I approached this book to get a slightly better and academic view of the events mentioned. Hobsbawm not just delights you with a lucid history writing, but also give great insights about the events in small, wonderfully-crafted chapters. Just two important things to take care of: One, it is an intermediate level book, so it is not meant for people who are newly exposed to 20th century history. Second, Hobsbawm is a marxist historian -- so it's important to approach this book as a perspective on history rather than simply as a history book.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Isaac Lee

    A tripartite look into the short 20th century, detailing its massive change in both worlds from the North-South divide. The lethal early half of the century is followed by a 'Golden Age' which itself ended with stagnation and crisis. Hobsbawm pays particular attention to the rise and fall of ideologies, notably the fall of liberalism and rise of fascism in the interwar period, the rise and fall of communism, and the reaction of capitalism to its challenges. Not to be left out, the arts and scien A tripartite look into the short 20th century, detailing its massive change in both worlds from the North-South divide. The lethal early half of the century is followed by a 'Golden Age' which itself ended with stagnation and crisis. Hobsbawm pays particular attention to the rise and fall of ideologies, notably the fall of liberalism and rise of fascism in the interwar period, the rise and fall of communism, and the reaction of capitalism to its challenges. Not to be left out, the arts and sciences are given their own chapters. A book with memorable and deft observations, it is a history of the century as the author lived in it.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm

    Hobsbawm is one of the great historians, and this analysis of the short twentieth century – building on his three volume history of the long nineteenth century – is essential reading for an understanding of the big picture of contemporary history – with its argument that the period c1914 to 1945 was one long European war, that one of the great European social changes of the 20th century was the demise of the peasantry, and other counterintuitive arguments that unsettle the simplicity of the rece Hobsbawm is one of the great historians, and this analysis of the short twentieth century – building on his three volume history of the long nineteenth century – is essential reading for an understanding of the big picture of contemporary history – with its argument that the period c1914 to 1945 was one long European war, that one of the great European social changes of the 20th century was the demise of the peasantry, and other counterintuitive arguments that unsettle the simplicity of the received version.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Travelin

    It seems as if Hobsbawm was too confused or dishonest about the goals and accomplishments of communism to give it to us straight in chapter 2. It's possible that's because he was an old man. But it seems he'd had a lifetime to consider communism and hadn't quite strayed from the idea that world-wide revolution was still the answer. I'm not interested in muddled thinking, or diplomacy at gunpoint and his meandering analysis would have snapped my already broken bag of books even further. It seems as if Hobsbawm was too confused or dishonest about the goals and accomplishments of communism to give it to us straight in chapter 2. It's possible that's because he was an old man. But it seems he'd had a lifetime to consider communism and hadn't quite strayed from the idea that world-wide revolution was still the answer. I'm not interested in muddled thinking, or diplomacy at gunpoint and his meandering analysis would have snapped my already broken bag of books even further.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marc

    Handsome overview of 20th Century History. The last part contains rather personal impressions of an era Hobsbawm witnessed himself; rather elitist-British, and of course, blatantly pro-Sovjet-Union and communism. It's a distinction for Hobsbawm as a person to having remained loyal to a choice he made in youth, but as an historian he should have known better! Handsome overview of 20th Century History. The last part contains rather personal impressions of an era Hobsbawm witnessed himself; rather elitist-British, and of course, blatantly pro-Sovjet-Union and communism. It's a distinction for Hobsbawm as a person to having remained loyal to a choice he made in youth, but as an historian he should have known better!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Richie Loria

    The Age of Extremes ranks high on my list of favorite histories. Remarkable in its capacity to reveal the relationships between seemingly disparate events and spaces - who if not Hobsbawm to encompass nearly-the-whole of the 20th century...

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