I am an engineer by training. I have also been trained as a mathematician. I never thought a book in history could be written with such precision and analytical depth. It is irrelevant whether you agree with Eric Hobsbawm's political sympathies or not, his logical reasoning and the evidence produced in this book are absolutely compelling. I wish I was taught history in this way when I was a schoolboy.
I read this book after reading the equally impressive "The age of revolutions". I was so impressed that I ordered the next three volumes immediately. I was not disappointed!
A word of warning: These books mostly concentrate on the dynamics of historical development. They are not narratives of historical events as such. To make best use of these books the reader must have a rudimentary knowledge of European (and the world) history. I found the best approach (for me) is to read Hobsbawm's books but refer to other (perhaps more mundane) sources for the details.
If you want to know why things happened the way they did rather than wanting to know what happened in history, these books are an excellent starting point.