In the Beginning: The Advent of the Modern Age Europe in the 1840's

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9780684195674: In the Beginning: The Advent of the Modern Age Europe in the 1840's

A look at the revolutions in the natural sciences, communications, social theory, industrialism, and transportation in the 1840s traces the dawning of a social conscience among the upper classes and depicts Romanticism giving way to the new realism.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

Blum (formerly History/Princeton; the scholarly The End of the World Order in Rural Europe, etc.--not reviewed) offers a detailed, if pedestrian, analysis of a remarkable decade. The 1840's were, Blum says, ``the most amazing epoch the world has yet seen''--because of the geniuses of thought and technology who then came of age. The author devotes the first half of his study to some of these figures. He highlights the pioneers of the railroad, telegraph, and penny-post, among other innovations, arguing that they created a communications revolution that changed the lives of ordinary people and allowed a new kind of society to develop. Blum also details the work of social reformers like Shaftesbury and of radicals like Marx and Proudhon. He outlines a stimulating--though hardly original--critique of the Romantic Movement, showing it as leading to the realism of a Courbet and a Dickins, as well as to nationalism. In the worlds of science and learning, Blum introduces us to giants like Humboldt, Helmholtz, Faraday, and Darwin, plus leaders in modern medicine, the social sciences, and economics. The author then looks at the political changes that took place in the five great European nations: Great Britain, France, Austria, Prussia, and Russia. Here, again, he concentrates on individuals, making them come alive through his use of humor and anecdote. Blum is no friend of the ancien r‚gime and, at times, he's overly keen to apply a Marxist critique--e.g., in his contempt for the religious motivations of early social reformers and in his reliance on the theme of the rising middle class (when has a middle class not been rising?). Moreover, he passes mechanically from one subject to the next--but, by book's end, readers have been treated to a mass of interesting information and introduced to an assembly of outstanding personages. Thought-provoking, if dry, historical fare for the intelligent nonexpert. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Booklist:

Synthesis is an example of the numerous intellectual terms Blum explains: for instance, Marx transformed Hegel's id{‚}ee fixe into the class struggle, which in turn provides one explanation for the times' bewildering and explosive economic change. Other social outlooks, such as Comte's positivism (which inspired sociology) or philanthropy jostled with each other, but in Blum's view the most influential notion over the long trend was the ascendancy of realism over romanticism. This occurred not only in the arts and history but also in politics, exemplified by the canny Cavour's success in uniting Italy after the romantic nationalist Mazzini proved a complete failure. Above all, this was an era of generational turnover, during which the victors over Napol{‚}eon gave way to youths and bourgeoisie impatient with the reactionaries symbolized by Austria's Metternich. The course of change varied in Britain, France, the German states, and Russia, and Blum devotes a political chapter to each, detailing the events that exploded in the revolutions of 1848. This fine overview, impressive for its catholicity of subjects, nicely caps a respected historian's career. Gilbert Taylor

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Jerome Blum
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ISBN 10: 0684195674 ISBN 13: 9780684195674
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Jerome Blum
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