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The Birth of the Modern World, 1780-1914

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ISBN-13: 978-0631236160
ISBN-10: 0631236163
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Editorial Reviews


"With its dazzling erudition and its vast scope, The Birth of the Modern World is a masterpiece of distance-annihilating synthesis…At a stroke, all other general histories of the nineteenth century have become parochial…I cannot think of any living historian who could match this feat. The rest of us must simply applaud." Niall Ferguson, University of Oxford


"Bayly's work is awe-inspiring in its breadth and authority. To write a history of this kind, the author must possess a command of his sources... outstanding lucidity and a capacity to organise immensely complex and disparate material; above all, perhaps, a sense of proportion and the ability to balance striking detail against swooping vision. All these Bayly enjoys in abundance. Readers will enjoy an invigorating and enriching experience." The Telegraph

"A truly global history, a work of great richness and jaw-dropping erudition that ranges effortlessly across the continents, laying out a complex, multifaceted picture of modernity. A brilliantly told global story." The Sunday Times

"A remarkable achievement. As an accomplished and innovative historian, Bayly has the rare ability not just to indicate the need for a 'global approach to historical change' but also to deliver, with scrupulous regard for the complexity of his subject. Empire and genocide, nationalism and modernity - these are grand themes enough for many a work of history, but they do not exhaust the range of Bayly's ambition and erudition. It is a tribute to Bayly's skill that his discussion can be read with as much profit by those who are familiar with the historical debates he engages with as by those previously innocent of them." Times Literary Supplement

"Chris Bayly's erudite and engrossing account of the global birthpangs of modernity is not only a landmark contribution to historical literature but, indirectly and without a hint of overt engagement, a pertinent addition to contemporary debates about globalisation and the world order. This is a book that historians, foreign policy elites and protagonists on both sides of the debate need to read.... Bayly has produced the most compelling and significant historical synthesis to appear for many years." London Review of Books

"An enormously important book in its approach to global history, it is also a riveting account of modern warfare, empire, nationalism and religion. Bayly holds the reader's attention across a history of kingdoms ... In turn, what he delivers is a fascinating challenge to contemporary understandings of globalisation, religious belief and the threads of Empire." The Times

"Christopher Bayly’s book will be essential reading for anyone seeking an historical angle on globalisation, and in particular on its impact on the world before 1914…No book I have ever read combines Bayly’s level of knowledge, clarity and insight on this vast and hugely important theme." Dominic Lieven, London School of Economics and Political Science

"The impact of this book will be as broad as its originality, currency, and force." Linda Colley, Princeton University

"This brilliant history of the 19th century offers remarkably lucid, supple analyses of the concepts around which this story revolves: modernity, nationalism, imperialism, the state, industrialisation. Bayly not only deftly summarises a startling range of complex previous literature, as well as integrating it effectively into his bigger picture, but also pushes many of those theoretical debates forward." Stephen Howe

"This book, by one of the foremost scholars of modern Indian history, is a sprawling smorgasbord ... a challenging and thought-provoking piece of world history." Journal of World History

Winner of the Wolfson History Prize 2004

Winner of the H-Soz-u-Kult Book Prize (World and International History)

"[A] magisterial synthesis" Journal of Modern History

"This is a brilliant book. Bayly's analytical approach merits high praise and the wealth of information he presents is admirable." Iberoamericana

Book Description

Covering the period 17801914, The Birth of the Modern World shows how events in Asia, Africa, and South America from the decline of the eighteenth-century Islamic empires to the anti-European Boxer rebellion of 1900 in China had a direct impact on European and American history. And conversely, how the ripple effects of crises such as the European revolutions and the American Civil War worked their way through to the rest of the world. None of the great themes of the nineteenth-century world the rise of the modern state, industrialisation, liberalism, imperialism, and the progress of world religions is untouched by the novel perspectives of this compelling new history.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 568 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell (December 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0631236163
  • ISBN-13: 978-0631236160
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 1 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #369,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By greg taylor VINE VOICE on May 15, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
(A note on my three star rating-When reading and thinking about this book I wavered between a three to a five star rating. I believe it to be on balance superb where it succeeds and somewhat flawed where it does not. I settled on the three star rating to drive the overall rating down a bit. Hopefully my review will explain the issues I have with this book).
Sir Christopher Bayly has given us a masterful, complex, polemical, flawed and mostly satisfying book on the history of the whole bloody planet during the period from 1780-1914. During its 487 pages of text and 25 pages of footnotes we are introduced to a variety of historiographical debates, more than a few snarky remarks about other historians, economists, sociologists and the histories of a variety of countries. This last is both the most impressive part of the book and the part I found the most flawed. Bayly is one of the foremost historians of the British Empire and of India. His expertise in those histories, in the histories of the Ottoman Empire, Southeast Asia, Iran, Egypt all strike this reader as subtle and complete. On the other hand, I frequently found myself questioning his grasp of the history of the United States which is a subject in which I have read widely for many years.
However, I want to do this book justice. So my plan is to tell you some of Bayly's main themes and to discuss the organization of his book. Then I will go over why I think the Bayly misses the boat on the U.S. and one area where I found his argument unconvincing.

If Sir Bayly has one overall theme, it is to put an end to the idea that modernity (however that is understood) was born in Europe/the U.S. and then diffused out to the rest of the world. He is very resistant to the idea expressed in the phrase, "the West and the rest".
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Enigma on November 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
This is the best book I have read on the history of globalization. It is superb. It is well written. It is sweeping in its vision. And the scholarship that undergirds the book is remarkable. Bayly has read widely in disparate fields like African, Chinese, Mughal, and British history, nationalism, economic development, the state, military history, and globalization.

Bayly appeals to the professional historian, interested in historiographical debates over nationalism, colonialism, economic development, and many other matters. He brings these debates into his narration in a judicious manner. But historiography does not overwhelm the narrative. This is a book that can be savored by the professional historian and educated layperson alike.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 26, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a very well written and thoughtful overview of a very complex topic; the emergence of the modern globalized world across the "long 19th century - 1780-1914". Bayly stresses 3 major themes; the increasing degree of interaction and interdigitation among different regions of the world, the increasing similarity of different societies as they become more "modern," and the increasing internal complexity of societies across the world. With this thematic approach, he examines many of the features traditionally associated with modernity. These include the enormous growth of world commerce with increasing global market penetration of previously traditional societies, the spread of national states, industrialization, and major ideological changes such as challenges to traditional ideas of politics, religious changes, and the spread of science. Bayly is particularly concerned with describing these processes as somewhat parallel and highly interactive across the globe, and avoiding presenting the non-Western societies as passive recipients of changes diffusing from Europe and North America.

Bayly suggests a rough degree of parallelism across Eurasia in the 18th century with much of the world dominated by large agrarian empires. He sees considerable parallel dynamism with a number of societies undergoing a version of Jan DeVries' Industrious Revolution and Smithian economic development. Europe, with some advantages due to better developed economic institutions, military skills, and naval technologies, becomes something of a pioneering region leading to initial globalization. European success being boosted greatly by access by the ecological windfall of the Western Hemisphere and the ability to extract slave labor from Africa.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Malkauns on August 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is going to revolutionize how we think about the history of globalization. To the traditional gaze from the West Eastword, it gives equal relevance to how the East influenced the West. For instance, it makes the important argument that nationalism was not just a western concept but arose relatively independently in many non-western countries. By looking at exchanges in both directions, with a masterful understanding of recent historical scholarship, it provides an authoritative corrective to existing understandings of imperialism, colonialism, trade, development and other globalizing phenomena. Besides being an important, even profound, work of history, it is also characterized by Bayly's encyclopedic knowledge of social and economic theory. As Nial Ferguson says in his blurb - this is a masterpiece.
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