Friday, February 20, 2015

The Age of Extremes: A History of the World 1914-1991, by Eric J. Hobsbawm

It has been almost a quarter-century since Eric Hobsbawm the daring step of writing history from the outbreak of World War I to the collapse of the Soviet Union. And only now am I getting around to reading it.

This is not a book that I think I would ever read from cover to cover. It is a long one. However, it is so interesting in its many details and its many passages of analysis that I got a lot out of it even just reading a few pages at a time more or less at random.

Here's one fact of 1 million: Hobsbawm points out that of the leaders of the various countries of the world in 1970, a year when baby boomers were  coming of age, almost all were people who had been adults at the end or even at the beginning of the First World War. No wonder there was a lack of sympathy between the establishment and the young rebels! It is typical of Hobsbawm's style that he illustrates the point thus: professors of economic history in France were people who had grown up on or vacationed on farms, and had a pretty good idea of how agriculture worked. They faced students in their classes with no idea what  milkmaids did or the usefulness of manure piles to a working farmer.
Anecdotal history? I love it nonetheless.

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