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Classic Marxist history, but still quite good
on August 10, 2014
The French Revolution is only a secondary theme in this book; the primary theme is the social upheaval and unrest caused by the Industrial Revolution. As a Marxist, Hobsbawm sees this as THE major turning point in history, which unfortunately did not lead to the world-wide revolution that Marxists believed would materialize. Nevertheless, even the conservatives and rulers and "bourgeoisie" sensed that some kind of cataclysmic event was on the horizon and could not be staved off forever. When the revolution did come in 1848, it fizzled out disappointingly, but the process of gradual and incremental reform that the radicals so despised did effectively create a more liberal society. Some of Hobsbawm's other observations are a bit tendentious; as a true Marxist he sees the sole purpose of Christianity as being to keep the lower classes in their place, and he gives to much credit to early developments in social science. But this was still a memorable tour through an important period.