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.
“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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Surprised By a Negative Review
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.
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.
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.
Paul Johnson fills in for all those history classes we skipped in college. He is absolutely brilliant.
- Doug Smith