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The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830 Paperback – April 24, 1992

4.2 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This marvelously readable work from the author of Modern Times , a BOMC main selection in cloth, chronicles the formation of the modern world, illuminating the epoch of Andrew Jackson, Wordsworth, Goya and Beethoven.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Johnson is the author of several wide-ranging historical narratives. His best known is probably Modern Times ( LJ 5/1/83), and his most recent is Intellectuals (HarperCollins, 1988). This literally weighty but lively tome argues for the years 1815-30 as "those during which the matrix of the modern world was formed," citing developments like the rise of democracy and the separation of science from the broader culture. Johnson leaps from country to country, from politics to art to literature to medicine, in a fashion that makes for better browsing than consecutive reading. Not essential for smaller collections, but larger ones will want to continue to acquire the provocative Johnson output. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/91.
- Nancy C. Cridland, Indiana Univ. Libs., Bloomington
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 1120 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; 1st edition (April 24, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060922826
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060922825
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 1.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #877,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Beginning with Modern Times (1985), Paul Johnson's books are acknowledged masterpieces of historical analysis. He is a regular columnist for Forbes and The Spectator, and his work has also appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other publications.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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.
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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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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.
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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.
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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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