D.S. Mattison's Reviews > The Age of Revolution: 1789-1848

The Age of Revolution by Eric J. Hobsbawm
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Aug 05, 08

Recommended to D.S. by: Derrick
Recommended for: Those in need of a history lesson
Read in August, 2008

I had first intended to read this book in the Spring. Derrick and I (and I think a few others) were going to read it at the same time and then have meetings to discuss its content. At the time I was far too enraptured in The Sorrows of Young Werther and could only muster a paragraph or two of Hobsbawm per sitting. Something switched off or on in my brain a few weeks ago (perhaps my yearning for sensational dire romanticism was quenched and my taste for historical analysis was revived), which made me plow through the rest of this book like a fat kid at the lunch line. As I am not an historian, or rather do not have the time to stew over the primary sources from this period, I am quite thankful to Mr. Hobsbawm for doing the leg work for me, even if through a Marxist lens. In that vein, I find this lens refreshing because it is not only responsible history writing (i.e. openly rather than sneakily biased) but also serves to educate us about the history and the conditions that led Karl Marx to his conclusions. No course in dialectic materialism will give you the tools to understanding Marx better than this 300 page historical tour de force. The framework of the dual revolution (French and Industrial) serves as a perfect source from which to explain all of the political and economic conditions and upheavals throughout this period. It also serves to arm us with a better grasp on our own political vocabulary (liberal, conservative, bourgeoisie, radical, left, right, socialist, capitalist, etc.). Further highlights are the chapters on religious and secular ideology, art, and science. Synchronicity with my own studies abound - Hobsbawm frequently refers to Goethe (who of course was a major literary figure during this time). The city of Manchester figures in largely as the birthplace of industry and therefore one of the most depressing, ugly, dark, and dank cities in the western world (which makes the music boom there all the more interesting and complex). I always enjoy seeing the ways in which so many seemingly disparate works and movements connect. I can foresee myself reading his other books regarding the pre and proceeding historical epochs.
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