Book Reviews   

The Birth of the Modern
By Paul Johnson

Review by Rich Sheppard


I am reading a tremendous 900-page book, "The Birth of the Modern" by British historian Paul Johnson. Johnson specializes in 900-page histories that are extremely informative and eminently readable.

"The Birth of the Modern" concentrates on the period from 1815-1830 -- just a 15 year span wherein critical events transformed the Post-Napoleonic world from quasi-feudalism into "modern" civilization.

"...concentrates on the period from 1815 - 1830 -- just a 15-year span wherein critical events transformed the Post-Napoleanic world from quasi-feudalism into 'modern' civilization ..."


The key events I've learned about thus far in the first 400 pages are the important treaties that shaped post-Napoleonic Europe, the beginnings of the anti-slavery movement in Europe and gradually North America, the take-off of the Industrial Revolution, creating self-sustaining economic activity in Europe and America. The impact of Beethoven's revolutionary (some would say "reactionary") music on the principle pre-German states. And perhaps most importantly, the displacement of indigenous peoples in North and South America, the vast Asian hinterlands, and Australia.

This period, which Johnson calls "The End of the Wilderness" opened up men's minds to the scope and nature of their physical world and all of the riches therein. The growth of populations. (Though Johnson doesn't mention this, all of this was made dramatically easier because of the printing press!)