This weeks readings focused more on the sciences, and the mind than the previous chapters. Hobsbawm takes us through the decades leading up to the First World War. It was a rare period where people’s entire way of viewing the universe changes in a short period of time. During this period physics was turned upside down. Due to these changes in how people saw the universe, people reacted in many different ways. One way that Hobsbawm mentions is by rejecting “reason and science altogether” (262). Many people also were self-educating during this period due to the increase in the working class, and more and more emphasis was being put on education and reading. With the emphasis on education increasing the number of “school teachers grew by anything between one-third…to seven or even thirteen times its 1875 figure” (263). With the increase in education and science, people were beginning to move away from their superstitions and from religion. Although, there were societies were religion remained very strong, thus “on a global scale, it would be absurd to think of religion as significantly weaker in 1914 than in 1870” (265). The decrease in religion was also related to urbanization almost directly. In this weeks readings the growth of Marxism is also talked about. Marxism received a strong following partially due to the fact that it interested intellectuals. There began to be a new separation between history and science with the theory of evolution. These centuries before the First World War had turmoil because “the bourgeois century destabilized its periphery” by undermining its economic structure and destroying trust in its political regimes (277). Social unrest led to the lives of Europeans after 1914 being shaped by wars. While there was unrest, no one truly expected war, although it had been growing nearer and nearer since the start of the 1900’s. Hobsbawm ends the reading in 1914 and a tortured world where war, upheavals and explosions would take over much of the next decades.
One of Hobsbawm’s interesting quotes in this weeks readings is about revolutions, he states that “the ancient empires…seemed destined for collapse” (279). I found this interesting because I feel like whenever nations become powerful others say they are destined to fail. Why did Hobsbawm state that these powerful nations seemed destined to fall? Because all great nations fall?
One thing I thought interesting was Hobsbawm’s way of describing the intellectual transformation. The way he went into detail and gave a visual about seeing the world through an architect’s eye fascinated me. The world used to be “a building made of facts,” until evolution was discovered (244). The other thing I found interesting was that during this period that science and reasoning took over religion to an extent, such as “in Marseilles half the population still had attended Sunday worship in 1840, but by 1901 only 16 per cent did so” (265). If you lived in this period would you lean away from religion or not? Relating to my previous question about religion, do you think the weakening of religion was related to the separation between history and science? If you had grown up in a religious family and then heard about the theory of evolution what do you think you would believe?