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Age of Extremes : The Short Twentieth Century 1914-1991 Paperback – 12 Oct 1995


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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Abacus; New Ed edition (12 Oct. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0349106711
  • ISBN-13: 978-0349106717
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 4.3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Eric Hobsbawm was born in Alexandria in 1917 and educated in Vienna, Berlin, London and Cambridge. A Fellow of the British Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, with honorary degrees from universities in several countries, he is the author of many important works of history.

Product Description

Review

A magnificent piece of historical exposition... an essential read. (INDEPENDENT)

A masterpiece (GUARDIAN)

A brilliant and stimulating book. (FINANCIAL TIMES)

The power of Hobsbawm's exploration of the age of hot and cold wars lies in its brilliant synthesis of familiar, though sometimes forgotten, facts and ideas. It combines an Olympian, multi-lingual erudition and an addictive, readable style. (Ben Pimlott, INDEPENDENT on Sunday Books of The Year)

About the Author

Eric Hobsbawn is a fellow of the British Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, he taught until retirement at Birkbeck College, University of London, and since then at the New York School for Social Reseach in New York.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Rich P on 12 Mar. 2002
Format: Paperback
The depth and breadth of the author's knowledge and research make this an awesome, if at times heavy, book.
For me, its greatest asset is the way that this book takes familiar elements and weaves them into a coherent whole. The individual portraits presented in this book are detailed in themselves, but when they are portrayed as a single panorama of the twentieth century it is incredible to behold.
This detail is also the book's downside. In those sections where I had too little existing knowledge to build upon I found the prose too dense and anecdotes distracting - but that may say more for my history than the author's prose.
If you are looking for an superficial way to put the events of the twentieth century in context, then this book is not for you. But if what you seek is a way of building and interlinking your existing knowledge of the twentieth century then you will certainly not be disappointed by this amazing book.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 21 Nov. 2001
Format: Paperback
The research which has gone into this book is amazing. The author has lived through almost all of the age he discusses and uses frequent personal anecdotes both to illustrate and provide reason for his views. The book argues a strong case, the central thesis being that the events of the twentieth century are without precedent in their scope and speed, and that their momentum cannot last for the sake of humanity. Although Hobsbawn's political and academic bias is obvious; the long narratives on the Soviet Union and frequent examples using Latin American countries being cases in point, his arguement is both compelling and well researched. An essential read both for those who wish to understand the past, and the increasing numbers, who, given recent events would like an insight into the choices which face us in the future.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By EnglishLad101 on 18 May 2013
Format: Paperback
As other reviews make clear, no book is perfect, and Hobsbawm's not even attempting to hide his love for the Soviet Union during the early part of the book will likely vex the typical reader. The attendant downplaying (though never denial) of Soviet misdeeds and crimes produces a similar reaction. Still, one consults a history book for a presentation and interpretation of the facts, so it is senseless and boorish to write the book off because one does not share an author's ideological sympathies. So enough with the author and let's move to the text.

I guess I would liken it to reading John Lewis Gaddis's 2005 sweep of the Cold War: so readable that its flaws almost don't matter. Don't get me wrong: one would do far, far better to read the chapter on the Cold War in the book under review than wasting time with Gaddis's 2005 offering. For this, and other reasons, I can see why 'Extremes' has a continuing reputation as a good way into the history of the 20th century. And I like the way that Hobsbawm sprinkles interesting little facts and asides throughout his prose.

One nice thing is that he has no time for silly rubbish about Reagan's performance during the latter stages of the Cold War, which is most gratifying, since Reagan was a rather strange fellow. Strange and monstrous. Hobsbawm's analysis of the end of the Soviet Union (arms-related spending) has stood the test of time. Not bad, given 'Extremes' was written so soon after the end of the Cold War that its author partially relies on newspaper articles! Out of the US and USSR, Hobsbawm correctly calls Washington as the greater danger to the world, though in my view this is hardly surprising, given the balance of power.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By "peter_taylor" on 21 Mar. 2003
Format: Paperback
This book is most certainly not a book to read if you're looking for a simple 'what happened' of the 20th century, for example it doesn't concern itself with the minutae of the two world wars but deals with the major 'why' questions that concern Historians today.
Hobsbawn makes no apology for his own views, admitting that he would be unable to write a totally impersonal account of a period he lived through, and its certainly true that his leftwing political opinions show through clearly.
What your own opinions may be shouldn't matter though, and you should take a step back and consider the detail and well constructed arguments he makes on topics as diverse as the rise of Totalitarianism in the 1930's and science and technology in the post-war years. For someone with a basic understanding of the 'whats' of the 20th century, this is an extremely interesting way to expand your own knowledge.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Hobsbawm is considered by many to be a pioneer of modern British history. However, it is difficult to attribute too much to his person considering his very obvious links with the Communist Party and views which reflect so very strongly upon his work.

If historians have been striving to modernise and scientifise history, then Hobsbawm undoes much of the progress that has been made. His rhetorical assaults upon everything right of centre, and sanctification of their left-wing counterparts, is blinding in some sections of the book. The Spanish Civil War is but one example: the narrative of the war provided in the book seems like a mythical tale of saintly revolutionaries combating a corrupted and evil world of fascists, supported by the Catholic Church etc. All decent historians know that no history is as straightforward as that, a fact that Mr. Hobsbawm seems to forget.

Secondly, an unforgivable blemish for any historian, Hobsbawm does hold an ambiguous silence on some shameful events perpetuated by the Soviet Union - a political body that Hobsbawm admired during his years of political activity. As the historian Norman Davies remarked, Hobsbawm forgets the Ribbentrop-Molotov agreement waged against Poland, which broke international law and confirmed that the Soviet Union officially undertook an act of military aggression against an Allied country, Britain's first and only ally for the first few years of the war, a fact cozily forgotten by both Roosevelt, Churchill and, it appears, historians like Hobsbawm.

This book, for me personally, is not a work of history, science or art. It is a work of socialist, possibly communist propaganda. It perpetuates a view of the 20th century centred upon bloody revolutions which resulted in human misery, not liberation.
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