Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Towards the Revolution

Hobsbawm does a very nice job of wrapping up the Age of Empire by pulling together all of the final ideas leading to the fact that this origin for the following era of war, revolution, and crisis was carried by the era of peace, a growing middle class, an increase in wealth, and western empires, which is thoroughly described throughout the book but through these last chapters especially. In this reading he describes a wide variety of new ideas and their influence on society, and he also depicts the events preceding revolution, followed by the change from peace to war. The mathematical change in ideas was led by the exploration of infinite magnitudes, and of course the Galilean or Newtonian universe of physics was replaced by Einstein’s concepts of relativity. I think Hobsbawm did an excellent job of explaining the way that scientists reconsidered theories at this time with the comparison the emperor’s new clothes. There was also self-education and self-improvement as the driving force behind the new working class, and the majority of humans were becoming “freethinkers.”

I was intrigued by the fact that during the nineteenth century, the period of social and political stability was not present everywhere since there was often possible, impending, or actual revolution throughout the world. The problem with the obsolete empires of Europe was that certain contradictions within, such as being both strong and weak, made them seem destined for collapse. Hobsbawm also went into more detail about the conflict in places such as Persia, Morocco, China, Turkey, and Russia and why they were different.

Something that caught my attention the most was the way that Hobsbawm chose to address the effect of armament. I am rather used to works of history simply describing how destructive certain weapons were or maybe what made so many people die in battle, but this reading is quite different. He says that during the 1880s the technology of killing advanced, which seemed like a different angle to me. For example, the electric chair was invented in 1890. This clearly made the preparation for war more expensive even if it wasn’t competitive armament that launched Europe into war. I found that Hobsbawm’s explanation of the role of new weaponry was more memorable and bared more significance than much of what I have previously read relating to war, why do you think he chose this tactic?

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