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The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830 [Paperback]

Paul Johnson
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product details

  • Paperback: 1095 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPerennial; Reissue edition (30 Jun 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060922826
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060922825
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 4.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,700,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Johnson's intriguing premise is that 1815-1830 were the years when the modern era blossomed, and he does a convincing and commendable job of telling us why this is so. One of the reasons why this fat volume is so enjoyable is that Johnson is in no hurry to tell his story. Unlike so many historians that focus only on the big picture, he delights in giving this era a personality by acquainting us with so many of its personalities, in remarkable detail. His scholarship is astonishing, and his story-telling arresting. Being a Brit, I think, gives him wonderful insight into the European characters whom he describes. Ultimately, his history is about real people--some great, others small, some we admire, others we despise--and that is what makes every page interesting. If you're in no hurry, this book is worth the stroll.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A particularly good look at the romantic period 1 April 1997
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The Birth of the Modern is a definite aid in understanding the romantic period of Western civilization. Johnson is especially good at detailing the literary achievements of this period, focusing on Shelley and Byron. The cultural and economic growth of Europe also is detailed well. The only minute flaw I can see is that sometimes the author goes on an occasional tangent that is not central to the thesis of the book, but as I said, the fault is minor.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The first Johnson book I had the great pleasure to read. It is a filled with wonderfully intriguing facts about the great inventors, musicians and minds of one of the most innovative and imaginative era's of history. Readers will learn about many interesting people and invevtions that are rarely covered by other historians.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars History that reads (almost) like a novel 9 Mar 2006
By With Favourable Winds - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Paul Johnson has written a 1,000-page book about various and sundry aspects of the years 1815-1830, years in which he rightly claims to find the origins of many aspects of the world as we know it today. Johnson's chosen foci are certainly broad: he ranges from events in politics and law to music, science, and even opium use. While almost every page is loaded with fascinating morsels of information that will certainly come in handy when you want to impress people at your next social function, Johnson's roving eye and pen can be disconcerting: he tends to shift topics very quickly and without warning. Also, while the book claims to be about "world society," Johnson spends the largest part of his time talking about British society -- but he's found plenty of ways to range geographically from the "western" United States (like Kentucky) to China and Singapore. Throughout, his prose is generally crisp and pleasant to read.

Overall, Johnson has given us what might be the ultimate in bedtime reading: a vast book that one can pick up, open nearly at random, and learn something interesting about the past but which retains significance today.
30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fanfare for the Common Man 25 Feb 2002
By oldfatslow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Out of the ashes of the French Revolutionary Wars and the era of Napolean, the world reemerged better and stronger than it had ever been. Johnson's history centers on England (probably rightly so), but it seems to touch everywhere else. This is a quirky little book with lots of interesting/fascinating stories. Yet, they are stories that center around a powerful theme. For the first time in history, the ordinary guy could rise to the top based on nothing more than his own guts and initiative. I was continually struck by how many men from Faraday to Dalton to the Stephensons were self-educated. Knowledge, particularly scientific knowledge, was the sports and the entertainment of the day. People flocked to hear lectures and read books that would bore most to tears today. I wish I could instill that drive in my children. Read this, it is a thousand pages of enjoyment.
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Leisurely Stroll through a Largely Overlooked Era 21 May 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Johnson's intriguing premise is that 1815-1830 were the years when the modern era blossomed, and he does a convincing and commendable job of telling us why this is so. One of the reasons why this fat volume is so enjoyable is that Johnson is in no hurry to tell his story. Unlike so many historians that focus only on the big picture, he delights in giving this era a personality by acquainting us with so many of its personalities, in remarkable detail. His scholarship is astonishing, and his story-telling arresting. Being a Brit, I think, gives him wonderful insight into the European characters whom he describes. Ultimately, his history is about real people--some great, others small, some we admire, others we despise--and that is what makes every page interesting. If you're in no hurry, this book is worth the stroll.
23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Study History? This Book Is The Best Answer 18 Jun 2003
By Nottingham - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Paul Johnson writes in a unique style. Many say his style is quirky, but I think his way of writing history is really the best. My reading his book is like being taken to a month-long tour of the early nineteenth century, mostly to England and Europe, but also to other parts of the world - American, Australia, Latin America and Asia - by virtue of the English (mostly) influence. It was like waking up in the morning and reading the morning paper of the era, learning about the what were unfolding in politics, business, industry, literature, music, art, science, and even gossip as they happened.
In this 1000 page volume, Johnson tells how the modern society rapidly took shape in a relatively short period of time after the fall of Napoleon Bonaparte. It is an interesting and compelling thesis. The industrial revolution, which created a lot of "self-made" men, and the arrival of the white men to all continents with their modern morals and superior weapons, the emergence of science, the popularization of music, art, communication media and eventually politics, all interacted to bring about an era of politics of the masses, or democracy, in the West.
Johnson tells us that this was not just another period of progress. It was the birth of the modern society. After reading his book, I am inclined to agree. Many of the salient features of today's society first took shape then. From little ills like traffic jams and parking tickets, for example, which started with increasing number of horse carriages, to party politics fanned by the media, newly juiced up by the steam-powered printing press. As if he anticipated what would happen in September 2000, at the ending pages of the book, Johnson innocuously chronicled the invention of the Lucifer match, a godsend for housewives but which also spawned arson. Does that not sound like a foretaste of terrorists and weapons of mass destruction?
The Birth of the Modern is a very unique history book. It is well worth your time. It gives meaning to the author's famous quote: "The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false."
It is the best answer to anyone who might ask why we should study history.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Made the world at 1815-1830 come to life for me 6 Feb 2002
By M. Rittman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Birth of the Modern is an amazing achievement! This history of the world during the period from defeat of Napoleon in 1815 to end of the Bourbon dynasty in 1830 is amazing in depth and breadth. The author chose to cover the history in all parts of the world from gunboats in Siam to the Russian conquest of Chechnya in graphic detail.
Paul Johnson covers art, poetry, philosophy, technology, as well as the life of the common man. He explores the philosophies of Fichte and Hegel. Byron and the Hellenists are discussed in detail, ending in the death of Byron at 36 years old in 1824 Greece. The large families and incredible population explosion in Europe is explained. The expansion of the railroad in Britain, and throughout the world comes to life. I found such discussions as the availability of opium at corner drugstores (at its effects upon colonialism in China) quite interesting.
In short, this is one comprehensive overview about world history at this interesting place in time. I do agree the author does have a tendency to go off on tangents at times. For me this kept the book from being dry reading. At times while I read this book, I genuinely felt transported back in time, almost like I was reading the newspaper headlines of the day. My thanks to Paul Johnson for making history come to life.
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