The Birth of the Modern (Magill Book Reviews)
Beginning with an analysis of the “special relationship” that emerged between the United States and Britain after the War of 1812, Paul Johnson examines important events such as the Congress of Vienna, which provided a framework for modern nation-states; the emergence of Britain as the world’s policeman; revolutions in transportation, communications, and science; changing relationships between the sexes; the growth of independence movements around the globe; the development of new political and social philosophies; the emergence of the artist as a political activist; the impact of irrational monetary policies; and the ascendance of democracy as an ideal form of government. Though the establishment of the period he investigates may seem a bit arbitrary, Johnson has expanded his study beyond horizons normally fixed by historians, choosing to look not at a single country or region of the globe, but at the entire world as it changed during what the author considers crucial years of development. Hence, his study is a sweeping look at the way an idea in political thought or a change in technology can take hold of an age and transform peoples throughout the world.
Johnson’s basic conservatism underlies his portraits of both leaders and movements. He is harsh on radicals but generally sympathetic toward gradual reformers. THE BIRTH OF THE MODERN is both physically and intellectually large, and readers may have to spend considerable time and concentration...
(The entire section is 322 words.)
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The Birth of the Modern (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Reading The Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815- 1830 is like going for a visit to the British Museum; the reader, like the museum-goer, is almost immediately overwhelmed with the equivalent of curios and artifacts that give visitors an idea of life in an exciting past. In the twelve lengthy chapters of his study of world society from 1815 to 1830, historian Paul Johnson surveys the development of the special relationship between the United States and Great Britain; the completion of the Congress of Vienna, which provided a framework for modern nation-states to establish world hegemony through their colonial activities; the emergence of Great Britain as the world’s policeman; the decline of the wilderness in America and elsewhere as advances in transportation, communications, and science allowed men to shrink the globe, the changing relationships between the sexes; the growth of independence movements in places such as South and Central America; the development of new political and social philosophies; the emergence of the artist as a champion of political causes; the impact of irrational monetary policies in America and Western Europe; and the final triumph of democracy as an idea for government that captured near-universal attention and widespread acceptance.
The sweep of this study is broad, but it is counterbalanced by the author’s decision to limit his investigation to the fifteen years that immediately followed two events that he...
(The entire section is 1831 words.)