THE AGE OF EMPIRE: 1875-1914 by Eric Hobsbawm

THE AGE OF EMPIRE: 1875-1914

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The impressive finale to the Marxist social historian's trilogy on the 19th century (previous installments: The Age of Revolution 1789-1848 and The Age of Capital 18481875). Closely reasoned and densely packed with facts and figures, the completed work succeeds to an amazing degree in encapsulating the forces that swept the world from the French Revolution to the outbreak of WW I and shaped the modern era. Taking his title from the fact that ""Between 1876 and 1915 about one-quarter of the globe's land surface was distributed or redistributed as colonies among a half-dozen states,"" Hobsbawm investigates the sources and the long-range effects--psychological, economic, political, military--of this imperialism. He convincingly ties imperialist methods and goals to capitalist theory. His findings, however, range far from standard Marxist interpretations and are almost certain to prove surprising to readers accustomed to regarding imperialism in simplistic terms. Hobsbawm points out, for example, the widespread opposition of the missionary community to the repression and exploitation of native populations. Particularly enlightening are his insights into the part that limited assimilation of members of the native ""elites"" (e.g., Gandhi into metropolitan societies) played in the development of anti-imperialism. Among other topics that fall under Hobsbawm's critical gaze are the arts and sciences during the period, the laboring classes, and the ""New Woman"" and revolutionary movements bent on the overthrow of the capitalist order. Hobsbawm treats each strand of his epic tapestry with a fresh eye and admirable thoroughness. In sum, then, an important addition to the history of the period, sure to interest both professionals in the field and the general reader.

Pub Date: Feb. 16th, 1987
Publisher: Pantheon