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A Terrible Beauty: The People and Ideas That Shaped the Modern Mind: A History
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A Terrible Beauty: The People and Ideas That Shaped the Modern Mind: A History

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  190 ratings  ·  18 reviews
This work presents a narrative of the 20th century, concentrating on the ideas that made the century so rich, rewarding and provocative. It covers topics from the creation of plastic to Norman Mailer, from the discovery of the Big Bang to the Counterculture, from Relativity to Susan Sontag, from Proust to Salman Rushdie, and Henri Bergson to Saul Bellow. The text aims to a ...more
Paperback, 847 pages
Published November 1st 2001 by Phoenix (first published 2000)
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Average rating 4.39  · 
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 ·  190 ratings  ·  18 reviews


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Paul Bryant
This is a splendid intellectual history of 20th century ideas but I'm wondering if there's any point in me finishing it as I believe my brain is actually full. I'm very concerned that every time I learn a new fact I have to forget an old one. And the one I forget might be something significant. I don't want to have to stop a policeman on the streets of Nottingham and say "Excuse me officer, could you please tell me where I live and perhaps take me back there? And on the way I'll tell you about S ...more
Euan Semple
Apr 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a fantastic book. An incredibly comprehensive “history of the people and ideas that have shaped the modern world” covering economics, history, philosophy, art, science, religion… the lot.

I am sure that there are aspects of the book that people could take exception to but it helps make sense of so much of our world and I can’t recommend it enough. I don’t award five stars very often in any rating system but have no hesitation in doing so this time.
Ahmed Al-Dulaijan
Apr 24, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history-of-ideas
A truly fascinating book. Watson takes the reader into epic journey in the human intellect starting from 1900 all the way through the twentieth century, stopping at 2000. It is a concise chronological encyclopedia which works great as a guide for the evolution of many concepts we speak of daily such equality, beauty, economics, experiment, etc.

I only wish he had waited until 9/11, so we could've seen his take on the ideas that lead to this event. He may even have been forced to recon
...more
Marc
Nov 23, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A real doorstopper, this is, and rather dense. After 20 pages I thought I would never get through it: it is an encyclopaedic accumulation of especially well-known names, without much line. But I persisted and after 3 months of toil, I have to say: hats off for the erudition of Watson! The last part in particular is brilliant, because it creates order in the cultural production of the last decades of the twentieth century.

The justified criticism remains that there is no real line in the story. I
...more
Narendran M R
Sep 04, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I had finished this book long long time back and was looking at my library, and realized I haven't put note on this remarkable book.
I started Peter Watson with 'Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud' which is a seminal book on the ideas which shaped human culture, an
...more
Ananth Subramanian
Mar 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Recommended to Ananth by: A Friend
Talks about the great thinkers and innovations of the 20th century.

It is heavy reading. However for any one one interested in learning about the ideas,innovations and thoughts that shaped the 20th century this is a authentic and good source.

Christian
Feb 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Lang hats gebraucht, bis ich auch diesen monumentalen Schinken (nach seiner Ideen-Weltgeschichte) durch hatte. Relativ kompetent und vor allem umfangreich zusammengrtagene Materialsammlung, der unbedingt aufgrund der Idee, vielleicht weniger der Durführung halber Applaus gebührt. Verloren hat der Mann mich - erneut - mit seinem Abschlusskapitel, indem er selber an die Analyse gehen will. Fortschrittsgläubige Positivisten werden hier ihre Freude haben, mich macht der Quark eher wütend.
Sourav Chattopadhyay
Dec 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dave Bolton
Aug 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Epic book, totally rearranged my world view. Exposed to the march of thought through the twentieth century, I gained massive insights into how we've arrived at where we are today. Also reminded that so many things that I have always taken for granted began with an idea, with a limited number of people pushing the boundaries. We've come so far in the last century -- hey, we only started flying 100 years ago!

Anyway, it is a heavy read, but I cannot recommend it enough. Very close to th
...more
Dave
Dec 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really fine book, ambitious in its scope and really well executed. Watson is an engaging writer and I think he has captured this immense subject well. I spent nearly four months working my way steadily through this book, it is as big as it's subject, but rewards a careful reading. Thoroughly recommend it if you have the time to spend reading it properly. I'm not going to go into what it's about, the title pretty much says it, if you want to know more, read it.
Toby
Apr 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is an (almost) comprehensive introduction to the key ideas that shaped the modern world. My one caveat is that no-one can be this much of an expert on so many areas and occasionally I had some doubts as to whether his approach was too broad-brush and generalised.
Jan Vernee
Dec 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Magnificent. What a gorgeous read!
Sumomi (Privater Account)
Tough read, really tough read. But inspiring. I can't believe the explanation why non-western culture is missing. I just can't. Okay, Wilson seemed no to be able, too.. but.. uhm.
Richard
Dec 10, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world, history, from, c, 1900
superb tour through the ideas of the 20th century. every topic is treated with the same enthusiasm and verve. can become a bit overwhelming but damn it's a good book
Raosl
Sep 03, 2008 rated it really liked it
Too long, fat and heavy. People and ideas that shaped the modern world.
Viceant
Apr 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An entertaining work. Does not delve too much the histories cause the huge quantity of themes, but it gives you a glimpse so that you can become more interested on some of them.
Sambasivan
It is one of the most ambitious works on modern history and ideas. Essential reading.
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Peter Watson was educated at the universities of Durham, London and Rome, and was awarded scholarships in Italy and the United States.

After a stint as Deputy Editor of New Society magazine, he was for four years part of the Sunday Times ‘Insight’ team of investigative journalists. He wrote the daily Diary column of the London Times before becoming that paper’s New York correspondent. H
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“One of the many innovations of modernism was the new demands it placed on the audience. Music, painting, literature, even architecture, would never again be quite so 'easy' as they had been.” 5 likes
“...for example, if Freud is wrong, as i and many others believe, where does that leave any number of novels and virtually the entire corpus of surrealism, Dada, and certain major forms of expressionism and abstraction, not to mention Richard Strauss' 'Freudian' operas such as Salome and Elektra, and the iconic novels of numerous writers such as D.H. Lawrence, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann and Virginia Woolf? It doesn't render these works less beautiful or pleasurable, necessarily, but it surely dilutes their meaning. They don't owe their entire existence to psychoanalysis. But if they are robbed of a large part of their meaning, can they retain their intellectual importance and validity? Or do they become period pieces? I stress the point because the novels, paintings and operas referred to above have helped to popularise and legitimise a certain view of human nature, one that is, all evidence to the contrary lacking, wrong.” 4 likes
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