The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret Agents Hardcover – 4 Mar 2010
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"This is an amazing book full of incredible people all of whom turn out to be real and unbelievable stories, all of which turn out be true. Against a backdrop of late nineteenth century Europe and America in which staggering industrial progress went hand-in-hand with mass poverty and class struggle, Butterworth brilliantly teases out the paths and plots of the dedicated revolutionaries, deadly dilettantes, spies, informants, agents provocateurs, false counts and femmes fatales who made up the international anarchist movement, and its enemies. A genuine tour de force" (David Aaronovitch)
"A narrative taut with intrigue and freighted with contemporarysignificance" (Bryce Christensen Booklist)
"Intriguing, provocative and written with a novelist's eye for detail, this book is an engrossing journey into a murky, subterranean world." (Mike Rapport BBC History Magazine)
"One of the most absorbing depictions of the dark underside of radical politics in many years. ... Butterworth has opted to present the anarchists in a mode that emphasises narrative over analysis. The result is a riveting account, teeming with intrigue and adventure and packed with the most astonishing characters. One cannot help wishing there were more extended analysis, however, for when Butterworth does offer broader observations, they are exceptionally astute." (John Gray New Statesman)
"This is a thrilling and important book" (James McConnachie Sunday Times)
A masterly exploration of the strange twists and turns of history, The World That Never Was is a true story of dreamers, schemers, anarchists and secret agents of the late nineteenth century.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The subject was alien territory for me so the introduction and prologue seemed heavy going as the author compacted plenty of thought and fact into powerful sentences. Thereafter the sentence structure opened and it was a pleasurable downhill romp until in the final chapter one hits the Bolsheviks and one knows that the end of the story is idealism hijacked.
Butterworth engages one with the interlocking historical characters wrestling with the moral and practical challenges of effecting change. Their conflicting passions, vanities and altruism are depicted en passant as pawn takes pawn.
There are some interesting illustrations which leave one searching for more.
Personally, as general reader I was propelled along through almost dizzying circus of event and characters as a sequence of deceptions, misconceptions and provocations follow one another as agents and their controllers manipulate and incite the hot-headed idealists. But I needed to keep on reading to find out more about just why and how society's utopian initiatives get scuppered from within and without...
At the core of the story are the chiefs of the secret police services such as the Russian Colonel Steiber whose fathomless intrigues spanning decades will never be fully unravelled but there is no doubt that many terrorist outrages and key conspirators were directly connected to him.
Perhaps you will find the overall effect upsetting or depressing as time and time again brave idealists get misled or lose their way or are simply crushed. Is this book a counsel of despair for radicals? Maybe future radicals just need to become way more savvy as to the extent of provocation and duplicity practised by the incumbent powers if things are ever to be changed? Or maybe human nature really is too selfish and base for anti-authoritarian revolution?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not a complete account: it is the account of individual theorists, propagandists, terrorists and disturbed hangers-on; it isn't ever (apart from perhaps the early People's Will)... Read morePublished 5 months ago by pregethwr
This is a big book...it needs to be because the subject matter is huge, and the author covers it intimately and in great detail... Read morePublished on 7 Mar. 2014 by Cogidubnus
A fascinating tale of anarchism, ideals and treachery from 1870-1920. At times the list of characters threatens to engulf the narrative despite the handy list of main players at... Read morePublished on 8 Sept. 2012 by Pensato
This book is fantastic and disconcerting! It traces the relationships within the radical Left of Europe and USA and between the State and the Left between about 1870 and WWI. Read morePublished on 17 April 2012 by tim
An exceedingly well-written account of many of the revolutionaries of Europe (and North America, in part) during the late 19thC and early 20thC. Read morePublished on 20 Sept. 2010 by Ian Millard
This effort from Butterworth is quintessential to anyone interested in the Late Victorian Period of London, England and indeed Europe. Read morePublished on 27 July 2010 by Phil Carter
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