The Birth of the Modern

  • by Paul Johnson
  • Narrated by Wanda McCaddon
  • 48 hrs and 49 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

This is an extraordinary chronicle of the fifteen years, 1815–1830, that laid the foundations of modern society. It is a history of people, ideas, politics, manners, morals, economics, art, science and technology, diplomacy, business and commerce, literature, and revolution.
From Wellington at Waterloo and Jackson at New Orleans to the surge of democratic power and reform, this tumultuous period saw the United States transform itself from an ex-colony into a formidable nation, Britain become the first industrial world power, Russia develop the fatal flaws that would engulf her in the twentieth century, and China and Japan set the stage for future development and catastrophe. Provocative, challenging, and listenable, this remarkable story is told through the lives and actions of its outstanding, curious, and ordinary people.
Paul Johnson is a historian whose work ranges over the millennia and the whole gamut of human activities. He regularly writes book reviews for several UK magazines and newspapers, such as the Literary Review and the Spectator, and he lectures around the world. He lives in London.


What the Critics Say

“A colossal effort of energy and imagination.” (Hugh Thomas, author of Rivers of Gold)
“Fascinating…A savory social history, spiced with lively gossip…It is never dull. In many ways a tour de force.” (New York Times Book Review)
Amazing…Crowded with wonderful portraiture, heroic feats of intellect and imagination…Reads at times like one of the novels it describes so brilliantly.” (Wall Street Journal)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Surprised By a Negative Review

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

This is 50 hours of history on the years 1815-1830. The only reason I wouldn't recommend this book is that you have to be a pretty hardcore history buff to want to listen to it. That said, it is written with Paul Johnson's usual sweeping and articulate panache, chock full of things you didn't know, and short biographies of dozens of important figures of the era, from Napoleon to Andrew Jackson.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Birth of the Modern?

The description of the deaf and off-the-charts eccentric Beethoven, composing while walking though the countryside, scaring the cows and inciting small boys to throw stones at him.

Have you listened to any of Wanda McCaddon’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

I have heard her as Nadia May, and she is a great talent. Her voice wears very well through 50 hours of hard slogging and you have the sense she is quite literate, knowledgable, and fully up to a very rich text.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?


Any additional comments?

Paul Johnson fills in for all those history classes we skipped in college. He is absolutely brilliant.

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- Doug Smith


Heavy stuff, but brilliant analysis. Leads one to wish to hear more and more history by Johnson.
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- Jakob

Book Details

  • Release Date: 08-21-2012
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.