Blom (A Wicked Company: The Forgotten Radicalism of the European Enlightenment, 2010, etc.) undertakes a massive work explaining the changes that took place in the years between the world wars.
The author explains how World War I didn’t really end; it was halted by mutual exhaustion, with one side economically weaker, only to be picked up again 30 years later. Blom extends his work regarding the prewar years as he chronicles the world’s disastrous move toward modernity. In the years 1914 to 1918, machines began to truly overpower humans, killing first the elite and then the workingmen, leaving a generation changed forever. Some readers may find it difficult to follow the myriad threads the author strings together, but most will admire his ability to compare and contrast such events as the industrial revolution in Russia and the 1929 stock market crash. The 1920s saw the rise of the automotive industry, the consumer economy and even advertising. It was a time when the new fashions of Coco Chanel reflected the physical and sexual freedoms of the flappers, but it was not to last. The lower classes no longer demeaned themselves serving the rich; they looked for less-restrictive, better-paying jobs in the new technologies. The market crash collapsed what little economic recovery had occurred, and Prohibition and immigration laws illuminated the American culture wars. Modernity continued to upset social structures, moral norms and long-held traditions. Optimism was replaced by pessimism; art and science polarized communities; and cultural propaganda and oppression were rampant. The inexorable rise of Nazism and Fascism offered a Messianic sense of something greater than the individual.
A book to be absorbed, marveled at and admired for the wide range of research linking events and thoughts.