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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Calm Before the Storm
An excellent and erudite work which expresses cultural history in palatable (yet enticingly contentious) anecdotal portions. Most importantly Blom identifies neurasthenia (nervous exhaustion)as the lasting product of these years - as automated lifestyles separate themselves from the holistic materialism that preceded. This, alone, makes the book valuable as a diagnosis...
Published on 19 Oct 2008 by Edward Barry

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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Format a bit flawed but a decent enough read
The year by year format used here is not a chronological description of events leading up to 1914 but a means whereby the author picks an event from that year and shows how it affected events elsewhere and else when (sic) and allows digressions into the late Victorian era to show how we got to that point as well. As other reviewers state, this is not always successful. As...
Published on 18 Mar 2010 by Big Jim


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No Calm Before the Storm, 19 Oct 2008
An excellent and erudite work which expresses cultural history in palatable (yet enticingly contentious) anecdotal portions. Most importantly Blom identifies neurasthenia (nervous exhaustion)as the lasting product of these years - as automated lifestyles separate themselves from the holistic materialism that preceded. This, alone, makes the book valuable as a diagnosis for even 21st Century ills, as well as putting the final dagger in the heart of the Romantic idyll (that never existed) to be conveniently shattered by the travesties of the Great War.

A book that would appeal to anyone interested in cultural history as well as those of us that simply want ammunition for duller moments at the bar! My only reservation is the seemingly arbitary year-by-year chapter divisions, simply because most events covered are so homogenous, so inter-related that they can't credibly be focussed by an annual lens. Nevertheless this is a compulsive and fluent read - highly recommended,
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars solid rather than popular history, 3 Nov 2009
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This review is from: The Vertigo Years: Change And Culture In The West, 1900-1914 (Paperback)
I must confess to having been taken in by the adjectives used by the editors and reviewers like 'breathtaking', 'anecdotal' and 'compulsive'. Basically, this is very solid history writing by someone who repeatedly assumes that the reader will nod sagely when reading lines like:"There is an obvious kinship between Einstein's radical relativity of space and time and Ernst Mach's epistemological impressionism" without getting further information on the subject.

It is of course extremely flattering to be repeatedly treated as a highbrow intellectual, but to mere mortals this doesn't always make the book unputdownable. And I do agree with the reviewer remarking that the year-by-year division of the chapters is arbitrary and often illogical. The author moreover repeatedly has trouble sticking to his own chosen format.

This book does get the message across that 1914 was no abrupt break from a sleepy 19th century or easygoing fin-de siecle way of living, but that the previous years were a period of unprecedented development and innovation. Anecdotal or witty is however not how I would describe the narrative style. Rather: a serious book for the serious student of the era.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Packs a lot in and well worth reading for anyone interested in the era, 4 Oct 2014
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This review is from: The Vertigo Years: Change And Culture In The West, 1900-1914 (Paperback)
Philipp Blom's central thesis is that the years 1900-1914 tend to be overlooked by historians analysing twentieth century history due to the dramatic events that followed, however he asserts that everything that followed has it genesis in these years. He makes a good argument too. Like our own era, the era was characterised by an incredible rate of technological change, profound social upheaval, etc. and Blom's book has given me a good insight into life during the early years of the twentieth century.

There's a chapter for each year beginning in 1900 and ending in 1914 and each year is introduced by a significant person or event. Each chapter works as a stand alone article and I jumped around a bit when I read the book.

The book places an emphasis on social and cultural history, and covers a wide range of topics e.g. modernism, women's suffrage, philosophy, Freud, telecommunications, neurasthenia, the Dreyfus affair, the growth of cities, etc. and convincingly demonstrates how the social and cultural changes often associated with the aftermath of WW1 would probably have all happened anyway.

The final chapter is called “1914: A political murder” however it's not about the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, it's about Henrietta Caillaux, the wife of the French finance minister, who killed the editor-in-chief of Le Figaro. The background of the crime is a tale that Blom could not have invented any better, a sleazy affair and an aggressive media campaign against the minister, combined to create the dramatic crime. The French public lapped the story up, meanwhile the shot in Sarajevo, fired at the same time, was hardly noticed.

The book packs a lot in and is well worth reading for anyone interested in the era, or indeed twentieth century history.
Philipp Blom
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Changing nature of change, 7 Jan 2010
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James Hayes "JM Hayes" (Herts., UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Vertigo Years: Change And Culture In The West, 1900-1914 (Paperback)
This enjoyable and accessible book evinces plenty of fascinating and compelling historical evidence to support its contentions, but seems to run out of historical conclusions as it plods year-by-year toward its last chapters.
By 'the West', author Philipp Blom mainly scopes Britain, France, Germany, and to a lesser extent, the United States. He acknowledges that the 1900-1914 period begin and ends points are arbitrary, and would probably have seemed nonsensical to most people living through those years, for who the death of Queen Victoria in 1901 would have had the most defining significance. The period 1900-1914 is generally ascribed as constituting the 'Edwardian' era; Blom does not make the error, but it's often overlooked that strictly speaking the Edwardian era ended in 1910 when George V succeeded Edward VII to the British throne - and not at war's declaration in August 1914.
In regard to the cause and effect of successive cultural paradigms, Blom does not really resolve the key question in the 'the roots of Modernism' debate: can a few 'progressive'/'enlightened'/'visionary'/'unconventional'/'deranged' individuals spark widespread cultural change of profound importance? Or are they more likely to be the 'lightening conductors' of progressive phenomena that is already bubbling under in the zeitgeist? Or, to put a neo-post-modernistic spin on it, is it a bit of both? 'The Vertigo Years' will do much to help you arrive at an informed and entertained view. PS: if you can get a copy, I'd also recommended Stephen Kern's excellent 1983 study 'The Culture of Time and Space, 1880-1918', which surveys the impact technological innovation on cultural development.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent cultural survey, 2 Sep 2013
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MJ (Cornwall, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Vertigo Years: Change And Culture In The West, 1900-1914 (Paperback)
Wide-ranging and consistently fascinating survey of the early years of the 20th century, picking a theme per year - from military armament to modernism, neurasthenia to New Woman, the Dreyfus affair to relativity - to build up a collage of the shock of the new and the anxieties and cultural shifts that accompanied it. Blom makes the familiar seem fresh and intersperses it with narrative threads that will be new even to those who know the period well (the emphasis on continental Europe is particularly refreshing for Anglophone readers). Highly readable, its whiplash velocity sustained throughout.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Format a bit flawed but a decent enough read, 18 Mar 2010
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Big Jim "Big Jim" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Vertigo Years: Change And Culture In The West, 1900-1914 (Paperback)
The year by year format used here is not a chronological description of events leading up to 1914 but a means whereby the author picks an event from that year and shows how it affected events elsewhere and else when (sic) and allows digressions into the late Victorian era to show how we got to that point as well. As other reviewers state, this is not always successful. As an example the entry to do with the Belgian Congo starts off promisingly but ends up being a discourse on empiricism which was a bit slight, Of course whole volumes have been written on this subject alone so some pruning has to be expected but this just serves to make the point that the author felt he had to make his content fit the format.

Given that the author is Austrian, there is a bias towards central European affairs which for me was interesting but in some cases missed the point. For example, in the same Empire chapter mentioned above, Britain, Germany and France get equal billing but there is no mention whatsoever of what Spain was doing in south or central America and Russia barely gets a look in -perhaps because it gets its own chapter later on.

For me the advantage of this book's episodic format means that you can read a chapter or two then put the book down to read something else then pick it up at a later date and carry on.
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The Vertigo Years: Change And Culture In The West, 1900-1914
The Vertigo Years: Change And Culture In The West, 1900-1914 by Philipp Blom (Paperback - 3 Sep 2009)
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