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The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830
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The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830

4.13 of 5 stars 4.13  ·  rating details  ·  476 ratings  ·  41 reviews
From the prizewinning author of Modern Times comes an extraordinary chronicle of the period that laid the foundations of the modern world.
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Published April 24th 1992 by Harper Perennial (first published January 1st 1988)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,184)
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Caroline
I find it hard to review three star books; there’s less to rave about or rant about.

Paul Johnson certainly has studied widely and describes changes across politics, transportation, science, art, and literature. But his conservative slant is so overwhelming that I had my feet dug in the whole way. And a thousand pages is a long way. The book is very anglocentric in its content and terminology, although it discusses the emerging American democracy fairly thoroughly. He is rabidly (hysterically) an
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JZ Temple
A brilliant book by Paul Johnson, best known for "Modern Times". In this book Johnson looks at the world in the time period 1815-1830, from the end of the Napoleonic Wars to the start of the railroad age. He covers a wide number of subjects, political, social, financial, artistic and others. It's an easy book to read, since every chapter stands on it's own. It's full of "gee, I didn't know that!" moments, which is what makes history fun for me. Well worth reading.
Frazer Gowans
An outstanding piece of work - covers most of world history from 1815 - 1830 - a real tour de force. Goes into a wide range of detail from politics, industrial development & science, arts, music etc. Cannot recommend it highly enough. It's around 1,000 pages - I read it in two massive lumps about half each with around ten years gap between them - just finished it last year and got through the remaining half in about two days.
Robert
I keep going back and rereading parts of this book because it is so informative and so well written. It is a remarkably comprehensive view of world history in the fifteen years from 1815-1830. Think of the authors, scientists, statesmen, generals, artists, reformers, and composers you know from the era and imagine a narrative that weaves them together with a sharp understanding of how they each changed the world. Johnson ties it all together without being boring for longer than a page. And for a ...more
Todd Stockslager
Review title: The end of the world as they knew it
Johnson takes a small slice of time and spends 1,000 pages documenting the political, scientific, technical, financial, cultural, and artistic people, places, and events. There are two keys to making this narrative history approach work:

1. Pick the right slice of time. Johnson makes a case for 1815 - 1830 being the transition period from the revolutionary 18th Century to the modern world that laid the foundation of our 21st century world. He sta
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John Harder
I wonder if my great, great, great, great, great grandpa realized that he was living through the birth of the modern era during the early 19th century. Perhaps doing backbreaking labor six days a week and dying of syphilis in some back alley in Hamburg at the age of 36 didn’t make him appreciate his good fortune.

Grandpa’s life not withstanding the early 19th century was dynamic if look at in a historical context. With Napoleon safely fuming in St. Helena, the British were safe to dip a waterwhee
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Nick Black
This is very likely the finest work of history I've ever read, eclipsing even The Making of the Atomic Bomb and Enlightenment Contested. An absolute masterpiece.
Erik Graff
May 22, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: cultural historians
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Despite his conservatism and strained attempts to attack the contemporary Left by association to discreditable persons and movements in the early nineteenth century, Johnson is an excellent writer and this is an entertaining, sometimes enlightening, cultural history of the period. I particularly liked his excursus on how much people walked back in the day.
Elh52
Reading this book made me really understand how everything in history is connected in just one big continuing story. It was like the scales fell from my eyes. I'm kind of embarrassed it took me so long, but this book changed the way I think of history - in a good way, I mean. I wonder if I would like it as much now as when I read it so long ago?
Sherwood Smith
I thoroughly enjoyed this walking tour through European, mostly English, culture during the Regency period and just after.
John Scherber
A rich and exhaustively researched book that charts the major changes in a critical period, 1815-1830, that forms the base for much of our present culture. Paul Johnson has a truly comprehensive mind and the book is well worth the effort it takes to read it, even at exactly 1000 pages.
Having said that, I was disappointed by the number of typos and other text errors-something like three dozen. This is the level of production errors that I would expect from a self-published book that had not had t
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Lisa (Harmonybites)
Paul Johnson is a British journalist, a believing Catholic--and a conservative. That will put some people off--although it's notable I saw more than one review from readers who said in spite of that they found this book incisive and readable. For me it wasn't something off-putting but something I sought out. Having grown up on Manhattan's Upper West Side from kindergarten to college I was exposed almost exclusively to a left-wing narrative of history. I wanted to hear from the other side, and ye ...more
David
Seriously, if I gave five stars to anything but fiction, this would get it. Spanning the period between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the revolutions of 1830, this lengthy little tome (1,000 pages---I bought it at $6 primarily for the value-per-page figure, although I was delighted at my dumb luck for having done so) covers mostly Europe, although it does digress into the Americas and China to explore the interactions of the Old World in the New. It's absolutely encyclopedic in scope and de ...more
Tom Leland
If I'd already had greater historical knowledge I would've enjoyed this much more -- many references were lost on me -- or were too British-centric. Many times I wondered how certain subject matter was relevant to the book's theme -- including a particular fascination with Byron's sex life. I learned a lot, but it was a struggle. Longest book I've ever read -- exactly 1000 pages.
Charles
On the Congress of Vienna. An interesting co-read with Paris 1919 on the Versailles Treaty, with Gautier's Tableaux de Siege on the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian war, and with Tony Judt's Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945.
Al
I have been an admirer of Paul Johnson since reading A History of the American People, and always buy his books as I come across them in book sales. That led me to Modern Times, probably the most interesting history book I have ever read, and then to this, The Birth of the Modern, World Society 1815-1830.
Mr. Johnson is still as readable as ever, and the scholarship in this book is extraordinary. But, I was a little concerned as to what one could find to fill 1,000 pages relating to this relati
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Don Weidinger
1815-1830, refused to go along with compromise with Barbary pirate extortion as Europeans, confidence from below vs authority from above, after Waterloo 100 years of European peace.
Glen
Okay, one of my favorite books. And I'm not a conservative! (Just for the record, I hated Modern Times and the author likes to get spanked by prostitutes...) Beyond that, Johnson paints a picture of history which I've yet to see done. If your are a fan of James Burke, I highly recommend this book! It connects so many it important pieces of innovation to what has become our modern world that it truly turned my head. He clearly states at the beginning, his thesis and proceeds to brilliantly make h ...more
Alec
I put this down about two-thirds of the way through. This book yielded a few really excellent ideas - like identifying the global scope of the expropriation of indigenous folks' land at the hands of grain-growing settler nations using state power - and helped fill in the gaping hole that was my knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars. But the author turned demagogue at times, and certain passages felt really forced and thin, mostly where events were given a late-twentieth-century conservative interpret ...more
Marc
Enorme eruditie, een omgevallen encyclopedie.Niet altijd goed gestructureerd; dikwijls uitweidingen en afwijkingen. Sterk Brits gericht: bijna alle voorbeelden komen uit eigen kring. Cfr bijna niks of Goethe of Heine. Tijdskader 1815-1830 soms te knellend en wordt daarom regelmatig doorbroken.
Virginia
I was very proud of myself when I slogged through the last few pages of this book.

It wasn't bad. Just really really really long.

Had some interesting stuff in there.

Good for major history buffs or people doing research for historical romance novels.
Jeff
Do you really need 1,000 pages to chronicle 15 years? With these particular years, absolutely. Especially if you're not Eurocentric, which too many such histories are. Johnson even goes so far as to cite the opening of the first ad agency in Venezuela.
Kevin J. Rogers
Feb 04, 2008 Kevin J. Rogers rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in history.
I thought this was a lucid and comprehensive account of the birth of the Modern Age; Johnson makes a compelling case that the fifteen years immediately after the defeat of Napoleon laid the foundation for the world as we have known it up to now.
Jimmy
Filled with interesting details about the period in history from 1815 to 1830. It makes it easy to see how what humans do can echo down through history and have unintended and unknown consequences.
Todd
This is an utterly awesome book looking at history centered around 1815 and spanning the entire globe. It is highly entertaining, challenging, and a little frustrating in its depth and span.
Rivka
Fascinating and brilliant. A book to work through (I did for over a year), not a quick read, but worth the work. I consider myself a much more educated person for having read this.
Colleen
Rather long, but very readable! I especially enjoyed the chapter about the growth of roads and transportation and its dramatic effects on the course of society.
Shannon McDermott
An excellent history of the beginning of the modern world. I found it enjoyably written, often vivid, and insightful; I learned a great deal from reading it.
Bill
Great book and a remarkable perspective of such a narrow period of time. Great thesis of the birth of the modern in this short time span.
Kevin
'modern' history, synergies build the modern, roads, females, napoleon, the gothic. entertaining and beyond.
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Paul Johnson works as a historian, journalist and author. He was educated at Stonyhurst School in Clitheroe, Lancashire and Magdalen College, Oxford, and first came to prominence in the 1950s as a journalist writing for, and later editing, the New Statesman magazine. He has also written for leading newspapers and magazines in Britain, the US and Europe.

Paul Johnson has published over 40 books incl
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More about Paul Johnson...
Churchill A History of the American People Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties, Revised Edition A History of the Jews (Perennial Library) Intellectuals: From Marx and Tolstoy to Sartre and Chomsky

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“This was the point at which north and south began to bifurcate decisively and indeed at which the term the South came into general parlance. The southern apologists were still, in their hearts, ashamed of slavery. That is why they used a euphemism. To them, it was not slavery—a word they never spoke, if possible—but “the peculiar institution.” The use of euphemisms was to become an outstanding characteristic of the modern world which was being born, and nowhere was it employed more assiduously than in the South’s defense of unfree labor.” 0 likes
“This huge growth in the cotton industry, rising at 7 percent compound annually, soon made cotton America’s largest export trade and perhaps the biggest single source of the country’s growing wealth. It also created “the South” as a special phenomenon, a culture, a cast of mind.” 0 likes
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