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Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century, 1914-91 Paperback – 27 Oct 1994

31 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Joseph Ltd; 1st edition edition (27 Oct. 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0718133072
  • ISBN-13: 978-0718133078
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 5 x 24.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 409,236 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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


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) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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On the 28 June 1992 President Mitterrand of France made a sudden, unannounced and unexpected appearance in Sarajevo, already the centre of a Balkan war that was to cost many thousands of lives during the remainder of the year. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.9 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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Serghiou Const on 23 Feb. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I came across Eric Hobsbawm while reading a book by another eminent historian, Tony Judt. I must have been sufficiently impressed with what I read about him for I retained him in my memory and identified his name a little later on reading an obituary on his death, in 2012 at the age of 95, in 'The Economist'.

On reading the book, the image emanating for its author was one of prodigious intellect, phenomenal erudition with truly global reach, multifaceted, multilingual, and humane.

Whatever individual items of knowledge I possessed on the twentieth century, these coalesced, cohered, and became an integrated and convincing whole.

Similarly intertwined, mutually interacting, and co evolving - but without a trace of historic determinism - became the topics he treated: world wars - hot or cold - revolutions, the varying approaches to the economy, the First, Second, and Third world, demographic change and urbanization, society and culture, the arts, the environment and its discontents, and science and technology.

The book was written in 1994 but it has not lost its sparkle and is as pertinent to-day as it was then.

The problems that haunted humanity at the end of the millennium namely poverty, mass unemployment, violence, violent political change, wealth inequality, and the specter of ecological disaster are haunting humanity to-day but with the important difference that they are much more acute.

The author at the end of the book observes that the major political problems in the approaching millennium is not how to multiply the wealth of nations, but how to distribute it for the benefit of their inhabitants. Social distribution and not growth would dominate the politics of the new millennium.

And he concludes: we have reached a point of historic crisis. Who would presently disagree?
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