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The Vertigo Years: Europe 1900-1914

3.88 of 5 stars 3.88  ·  rating details  ·  354 ratings  ·  64 reviews
Europe, 1900–1914: a world adrift, a pulsating era of creativity and contradictions. The major topics of the day: terrorism, globalization, immigration, consumerism, the collapse of moral values, and the rivalry of superpowers. The twentieth century was not born in the trenches of the Somme or Passchendaele—but rather in the fifteen vertiginous years preceding World War I....more
Hardcover, 488 pages
Published October 21st 2008 by Basic Books (first published August 1st 2008)
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Riku Sayuj

Dangerous Ideas; Necessary Ideas

The Vertigo Years traces the initial eruptions of some of the most explosive ideas and social phenomenons of the century that bore the brunt of the first mad rush of modernity — from socialism and fascism, to nuclear physics and the theory of relativity; from conceptual art and consumer society, to mass media and democratization; to feminism and psychoanalysis. The many issues and the intellectual interplay is explored in great detail and gives an overall impress...more

As I have read this book thanks to Kris Rabberman, it is to her that I shall dedicate my review. And since it is also her birthday today (January 22nd), this is my gift to her.

This book has a smart and clear structure. Blom has taken the fifteen years that preceded WW1 and surveyed the key cultural and social aspects that, mostly in Europe, accompanied the political events that led to the declaration of the Great War.

These were times of rapid change. The relative political and diplomatic weight...more
John David
“The Vertigo Years,” much like Blom’s earlier “Wicked Company,” is a history for the general reader who wants to gain a feel for the general Zeitgeist of fin-de-siècle Western Europe coming up through the beginning of World War I. If you desire a history of something specifically with “the events leading up to WWI” in mind, keep looking, as this book has almost nothing to do with the complicated set of alliances and feuds that eventually resulted in the death of Archduke Ferdinand. It is, in the...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
Sep 29, 2013 Susanna - Censored by GoodReads rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in history

For a further review:
Mikey B.
A wide scope of a book that successfully presents the period 1900-14 (pre- World War I) within in own context, not as a retrospective of the build-up to World War I.

As the author states, in July 1914 the major news headlines in France were about the murder of a newspaper editor by Henrietta Caillaux, not the assassination in Sarajevo.

We often think of changing to the 21st century as a period of intense upheaval – the advent of the computer age. This book demonstrates successfully that there were...more
Survey of the western world 100 years ago. The existing academic categories of defining western thought were not challenged or expanded, but well explained. It's unnerving how much is lost so quickly, this book unintentionally shines light on modern culture's branding of individual endurance, i.e. modern culture trains us, or we train each other, to perceive a lifespan, a generation, as being much longer and enduring then it actually is. A year is a measurable timespan, with a beginning and an e...more
Sep 26, 2014 Jur rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: wwi, own
Machines, women, speed and sex: a rather bourgeois look at the opening of the 20th century

What if World War One hadn't happened and we looked back on the preceding 15 years without the shadows of that conflict cast over it? Almost like those that lived through it might have seen it. What was on their minds?

Rather than covering the tracks of political, economic and social histories of the start of the 20th century, Blom tries to picture the state of mind of Europe. And for this he picks the dynam...more
James Murphy
It's usually thought WWI brought about the enormous changes in Europe which ushered in the modern world. Blom's great lesson is that the social and cultural changes we associate with the war and after had already occurred or were underway. The war acted as catalyst causing processes in motion to speed up, to sometimes bring about collapse of ways of thinking or to shift identities or create new enthusiasms. Each chapter is headed by a year, and the course of the narrative is generally chronologi...more
Philipp Blom's central thesis is that the years 1900-1914 tend to be overlooked by historians analysing twentieth century history due to the dramatic events that followed, however he asserts that everything that followed has it genesis in these years. He makes a good argument too. Like our own era, the era was characterised by an incredible rate of technological change, profound social upheaval, etc. and Blom's book has given me a good insight into life during the early years of the twentieth ce...more
The author takes an event in each year from 1900 to 1914 as the basis for each chapter. He then expands on the theme, so that Chapter 1 on the Paris World Fair also gives a wider coverage of France at the time, the Dreyfus affair and antisemitism, Chapter 2 on the death of Queen Victoria looks at Britain and the changing role of the aristocracy there and throughout Europe, Chapter 3 on Sigmund Freud finally getting a post and recognition discusses psychoanalysis and its effects on thought, art a...more
I really enjoyed this book. I liked that the author had a particular theme for each year (1900-1914. Each chapter could be read on its own.

Among the topics I found most interesting were: the suffragettes, the genocide in King Leopold's Congo (must read King Leopold's Ghost), the Curies, the development of cinema, and Russian thought and society.

I also enjoyed reading about the pacifist Bertha von Suttner, who was an entirely new name to me. It was interesting reading about Rudolf Steiner too. I...more
I did really enjoy this but it seemed uneven, so only 4 stars not 5. Each chapter is a different topic and the topics were almost all very interesting (and those that weren't to me were because of my interest in the topic, nothing on the author's part). It just seemed to jump around a bit which decreased some of my enjoyment of it.
This is brilliant, a kind of history I've never encountered. The writer tackled major events, one at a time, and then spun a related chapter on each. The decline of aristocracies, the rise of industry, the death of peasant naivete, the birth of humanism. Sex. Violence. Best I've read in months.
This is a well written, well researched cultural history looking at the factors that lead to profound changes in the way the world was viewed in the opening years of the Twentieth Century. It is information rich and I learned quite a bit. I didn't entirely agree with all Blom's arguments and I thought there were some sins of omission, but I found it very well argued and stimulating reading.

Blom's central theme is that the period can be explained as a nervous reaction to Europe's perceived loss...more
I supposed when I've thought of the span of twentieth century history, I've been guilty of thinking of the fourteen years preceding the First World War as nothing but a prelude, a working-up to the cataclysm that befell Europe in the summer of 1914. Phillip Blom invites the reader to try to forget everything from that summer onwards and to examine the artistic, social, political, military, literary, scientific and technological developments of that period as if it were an open-ended era, not kno...more
Das Kernproblem dieses Buches ist wohl, dass es ein zu weites und zu ungenau umgrenztes Feld abdecken möchte: Russland, Deutschland, England, Frankreich und das Habsburgerreich (und noch den einen oder anderen zusätzlichen Schauplatz) in den ersten 14 Jahren des 20. Jahrhunderts. Kultur, Politik, Gesellschaft, Wissenschaft usw. Soetwas ist wohl enorm schwierig zu fassen und zu strukturieren. Dementsprechend konnte ich als Leser nicht immer nachvollziehen, warum sich der Autor nun gerade diesem o...more
Not so much this-and-then-than happened, as an attempt to get at the zeitgeist. I don't know enough to say whether its a good attempt, but it was certainly an interesting read. Culture, politics, morals, women, technology, health, race, art and a very great deal of sex. The world was moving too fast, capitalism was destroying identity, the right sort of people were having too few children and everyone else was having too many, the traditions of earlier ages were being shattered, technology was c...more
In fifteen chapters, one for each year from 1900 to 1914, Philipp Blom shows how Europeans in this period had good reason to feel dizzied. But the chapters aren't about the years per se. They're about the Paris Exposition Universelle, the launch of HMS Dreadnought, the suffrage movement, and other events that took place during these years. Blom makes a good story of each.

None of the figures portrayed in this book see the Great War coming. Nor do the events described make it inevitable. As revie...more
I was excited to read this book, so I'm sad to say that I'm happy to be done with it. The subject has great potential —the world changed tremendously between 1900 and 1914 —but it's too big for a book like this. Topics are covered quickly, often with little more than lists of events or names that simply must be mentioned. The moments when it enters into narrative are its best. I wish this book covered half the material in twice the depth. It reminded me a great deal of Graham Robb's _The Discove...more
Dipping in and out of the arts, literature, science, politics, and social history, swinging back and forth through Britain, France, Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Russia, Blom enacts a dizzying waltz through the dawn of the 20th century.

His central purpose is to portray these fourteen years as a dynamic part of the 20th century as opposed to the last gasp of the long nineteenth. He does an excellent job of sampling a sufficient variety of modernist thought and bewildering social change to make hi...more
Der Ausbruch des Ersten Weltkrieges ist in aller Munde, jährt er sich dieses Jahr doch zum 100. Mal. Zum Gedenken an die Urkatastrophe des 20. Jahrhunderts finden weltweit zahlreiche Veranstaltungen statt und der Buchmarkt wird überschwemmt von wissenschaftlichen Arbeiten oder Erfahrungsberichten im Histotainment-Bereich. Deutungsmuster werden in Frage gestellt und neu konzipiert (man denke da etwa an “Die Schlafwandler”-Debatte) und die Frage, wer eigentlich Schuld war, ist noch immer nicht gek...more
Jill Hutchinson
This is a different kind of history book as the author does not confine himself to the causes leading up to WWI but, rather, what was happening across Europe at all levels of society and thought. Each chapter concentrates on a specific year and addresses a particular issue which was in flux at the time.
It becomes a bit pedantic but generally is a unique and interesting approach to a changing world.
A well-written, interesting book, rather dry at times. It's given me a better perspective on the period 1900-1914.

There was more about crime, sexuality and mental health than I expected.

The chapter that focused on eugenics was very detailed and I found it unsettling.
Der in Deutschland geborene, in Wien lebende Schriftsteller, Historiker, Journalist und Übersetzer Philipp Blom entfaltet in diesem sehr lesenswerten, im besten Sinne des Wortes populärwissenschaftlichen Buch ein spannendes Panorama der Jahre 2000-2014 in Europa. Im Gegensatz zu vielen Büchern, die heuer anlässlich des 100-Jahr-Jubiläums des Ausbruchs des Ersten Weltkriegs erschienen sind und diese Jahre oft als Inkubatoren für den Krieg ansehen, lädt Blom zum Gedankenexperiment ein, alles zu ve...more
I'm obsessed with the turn of the century (from the 19th to the 20th, not the 20th to the 21st). For me those few years before WWI encapsulates the 20th century. The horror of the 20th century is captured in those years before WWI. We have several genocides (the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire, and the Herero and Namaqua Genocide by Germany) atrocious killings in the name of empire building (the U.S.'s incorporation of The Philippines and their subsequent struggle for liberation, England...more
There are 15 chapters in this book, each dealing with some aspect of life in Europe in the years leading up to World War I. While they're interesting in their own right, some more than others, they don't seem to really coalesce around a central theme. It's true that the introduction points out that a common concern was the pace of change, speeding up all the time and leading to an sense of anxiety. The author points out parallels with our own time, a hundred years later, with our own unease ove...more
In Europe, the period of 1900-14 is one where innovations in the arts, sciences, and other fields contrasted (in a combustible way) with a decadent, aristocratic inertia. The fault line lies, naturally, with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and the beginning of WWI, but a sense of unrest, both exciting and dangerously explosive, emerges in the decade and half before.

Philipp Blom’s “The Vertigo Years: Europe, 1900-14” is a broad, synoptic survey of the period, an approach less common than...more
It’s hard to make clear what bugs me about this book. Overall I like it… but…

I wanted a high-level overview of European history from 1900 to 1914, and while this book does provide that, it goes into too much small (unnecessary) detail. Like for example: a drilled down explanation of how Xrays work. Sure that’s all very interesting, but this is not a book about the discoveries of Xrays!! It is possible to talk about Marie Curie and why she matters in the grand scheme of history without detailed...more
Nov 14, 2008 Spiros rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those looking for historical parallels to our own era
Shelves: arc, vacationreads
Philipp Blom (the name doesn't look right, no matter how many times I type it) is on a mission: he is determined to correct the misconception that the first decade of the twentieth century was a placid, even stagnant time, and that modernity was born in the viscera of the fields of Flanders. I am not entirely clear that this is a common misconception: I mean, a quick roll call of names of people who achieved lasting fame during this period would reveal Sigmund Freud, Igor Stravinski, Marie Curie...more
Effective look at the events in Europe leading up to the start of World War One and a book that stays true to its elected approach - by picking a topic in each of the first 14 years of the 20th century that focuses on the cultural, economic, and intellectual changes affecting Europe and how they interrelated to political happenings that set the stage for the global conflict that engulfed the world from 1914-18.

Some of the chapters work better than others. In particular, I liked the chapter on eu...more
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Bright Young Things: October 2014- The Vertigo Years by Philipp Blom 17 15 Oct 17, 2014 02:34AM  
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Philipp Blom is a German novelist who currently lives and works in Vienna, Austria. He is best known for his novel, The Simmons Papers (1995). His 2007 novel, Luxor has not yet been translated into English. He is a professional historian who studied at Vienna and Oxford with a focus on eighteenth-century intellectual history. His academic works include: To Have and to Hold: An Intimate History of...more
More about Philipp Blom...
A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment To Have And To Hold: An Intimate History Of Collectors and Collecting Enlightening the World: Encyclopédie, The Book That Changed the Course of History Twilight of the Romanovs: A Photographic Odyssey Across Imperial Russia The Simmons Papers

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