Thursday, October 1, 2009

AoE Commentary 1

Hobsbawm's Age of Empire is so far very different in approach and style from Abu-Lughod's Before European Hegemony. The first two chapters discuss the various economic conditions and happenings of the late 1800s and early 1900s - making evident and obvious that the trends mentioned were only applicable to 1913 "the pre war" era. The Industrial Revolution marked noticeable changes in the entire world - either directly or indirectly. First coming to Great Britian, the Industrial Revolution allowed the places it infiltrated to a profound level to rapidly develop. Essentially, most industrialized countries found membership with the First World. However, those mentioned previously as being indirectly affected by the Industrial Revolution largely became "dependants" and found membership in the Second or Third Worlds. The Industrial Revolution gave rise to what historians largely call the Age of Empire where the First World carved the rest of the world and essentially carved the pie [world] into their own pieces. The size of a country's piece of pie directtly correlated to their "worldd power." Case in point - Italy's standing in the world fell after it lost its bid in the Ethiopian or Abyssian Crisis to the other world powers [e.g. Great Britain, France]. Hence the late 1800s and early 1900s [pre WWI] was marked by imperialism both as a politcal and economic medium of power. Hobsbawm repeatedly states that to say imperialism was a result of one or the other, or to even really discuss them seperately is to play with idealogy. The consequences were that economic rivalry became political rivalry as countries competed for status and general power.

I knew that the years between the First World War and the Second World War were marked by the Great Depression and economic fallout globally. However, I found Hobsbawm's approach and illustration of the cause and effect relationship very interesting. Economic rivalry became political rivalry. Then if you throw in some origins of World War 1 into the argument, you can divide the adversaries in the war to the haves and have nots. Germany a relatively new country was looking for a way to gain global status and prosperity while Great Britain and France - those with these great things already - obviously did not want to share the wealth. I thought it was cool to learn the dynamics between the competition between the haves and have nots in terms of the WW1 [which is a major time period point for Hobsbawm.]

I found it difficult to comprehend the very nittyy gritty economic discussion and what exactly was happening on a detailed level. The influx of statistics and numbers was also overwhelming. Can somebody summarize what the change was that Hobsbawm discusses? I understand that Great Britain was the top producer initially, but later other countries became more influential. However, I am unsure of the semantics/mechanics of the change.

1 comment:

  1. I found Hobsbawm's writing extremely tedious and boring. I felt like I grasped his main ideas as well but could not reproduce a perfect time line of hegemonic shifts in power. It short, I think Hobsbawm's main idea was the the industrializing countries, particularly Europe and North America, had the most power and control of the world. They had large populations of literate whites which was a key advantage during the rise of the Empire.