31 internautes sur 32 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
This impressive book is a highly ambitious and very successful attempt to explore the major features and complexities of 19th century global history. Readers should have clear expectations and understanding of Osterhammel's aims before starting to read it. This is not a conventional narrative survey. To get the most out of this rich text, a decent prior knowledge of 19th century history, including both Western and non-Western regions, is necessary. Similar knowledge of 18th and 20th century events is useful as well. If you don't know, for example, something about the Taiping Rebellion or Meiji Restoration at the level of reading surveys of Chinese and Japanese history, you're likely to be at sea for parts of the book. Osterhammel's goal is to move past the basic narratives to explore major similarities and differences in the increasingly interdigitated world that emerged in the course of the 19th century. While some will find this off-putting (see some of the other Amazon reviews), this feature and Osterhammel's remarkable depth of knowledge provide an unprecedented view of the 19th century. Osterhammel is also a fine writer (and appears to be translated very well by Patrick Cammiler) with a talent for telling language.
My recommendation is that readers start with the first 3 chapters, and then read the final, short, interpretative concluding chapter, followed by the rest of the book. The book opens with 3 chapters called Approaches that deal partly with theoretical-historiographic questions and also with how residents, so to speak, conceptualized many aspects of the world they inhabited. This is, to a considerable extent, a exploration of the "mentalites" of the 19th century but also a discussion of our present strengths and limitations in analyzing the 19th century past. I suspect many readers will find parts of these sections excessively theoretical but they are actually quite important and very thoughtful. Grasping Osterhammel's points in these sections really enhances reading of the following chapters. The short concluding chapter returns concisely to some of the issues raised in the first 3 chapters and contains an explicit identification of some important and distinctive themes that Osterhammel sees as emerging from his remarkably broad discussions of many regions and societies. Reading this concluding section may help to navigate some of the data-rich discussions in the great majority of chapters in the book. Osterhammel identifies 5 major themes of 19th century history - asymmetric efficiency growth, increased mobility, asymmetric reference density, tension between equality and hierarchy, and emancipation. Its beyond the scope of a short review to discuss what Osterhammel means by these themes, but asymmetric efficiency growth, for example, encompasses such phenomena as industrialization, increasing state power, and the institutionalization of scientific research. Understanding what Osterhammel means by these themes and how he explores them is one of the chief delights of this book.
The great body of the book is divided into 2 sections; Panoramas and Themes. The chapters in the Panoramas section are broad and deep discussions of important phenomena across the globe and including analyses of how these things changed during the 19 century. Osterhammel discusses demographic changes, international migration, living standards and material culture, the dynamic nature of cities, the importance of frontiers and frontier-settler states, the fate of traditional and nomadic socities, the role of imperial states, international politics, political revolutions across the globe, and the changing nature of the state. The Themes chapters isolate a few key areas for discussion. These include industrialization per se, the growth of scientific knowledge, changes in social structures, religion, and racism and related concepts.
All chapters are impressive in terms of many comparisons and analyses across the globe. Osterhammel's erudition is remarkable and each chapter is considerably more than an interesting accounting of similarities and differences. Osterhammel has many, many shrewd analyses of general phenomena driven by his impressive knowledge. His discussions, for example, of the nature of empires and its relationship to emerging nationalism, what constitutes a political revolutioni, and the importance of the modern university are strong cases in point. As a really nice bonus, the bibliography is outstanding.
There are a few minor defects. As is usually the case, the publisher has scrimped by using endnotes, rather than footnotes. Maps and well chosen illustrations would have enhanced the book. Like most historians, Osterhammel relies primarily on verbal descriptions. He uses some tables but more use of appropriate charts and tables would allow concise presentation of important data. These are, however, very minor complaints about a really first-rate book.
5 internautes sur 5 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
This is one big A.. book to read but i am better informed ...
It's a big book in every sense: more than 900 pages of text, a quarter more again in the form of notes, bibliography and index. It will also be a challenging read for those who expect to be carried smoothly from decade to decade or from region to region as the book proceeds. His arrangement is topical, owing more stylistically to historical sociology than narrative history, so we get chapters on the, what i understand, as the framework of this type of Historical method. Part 1 is tiltled "Approaches".
The second part of the book is concerned with what Osterhammel calls “Panoramas”, in which he explores “eight spheres of reality”: mobilities, living standards, cities, frontiers, empires and nations, international organisations, revolutions and the state. Uniquely compared with any time before or since, the 19th century was the era of diasporas and migrations on a massive scale. It was a time when expanding cities and closing frontiers, in different but complementary ways, presented unprecedented challenges and opportunities, and when white men hunted and slaughtered wildlife across the globe on a scale – and with relish – that seem incomprehensible today. It was a period when nationalism, and the cult of the nation, reached new levels; but for most of the world, the default mode of organisation was in fact empire. It was an age of revolutions the like of which had never been seen before; but while those at the beginning were interconnected (the American, the French and the Haitian), those that took place in mid-century (among them the Indian “Mutiny”, the Taiping rebellion and the American civil war), and those that occurred in the 1890s (including Russia, China and Iran) were largely separate upheavals. And it was a time when many monarchies reinvented themselves (though not all: Ex China), while progress towards democracy was geographically confined for men and even more circumscribed for women.
Osterhammel’s final section is entitled “Themes”, in which he offers brief discussions of big topics that are more sketchily treated than “Panoramas”. As befits an expert on China, he constantly reminds us that throughout the 19th century, and across the whole world, agriculture was far more important than industry as an employer of labour; but he is also well aware that it witnessed the unprecedented development and diversification of “global capitalism”, in part made possible by the extraordinary revolution in communications thanks to railways, steamships and the telegraph. He has fascinating things to say about schooling and universities, and about the rise of “world languages” and “big” science; and he devotes a late chapter to exploring the ambiguities and contradictions of the west’s “civilizing mission”, the emancipation of slaves and serfs, and the rise of racial thinking and of race-based regimes (such as the American south).
Only in his final chapter does he get to religion – which is not easily reconciled with the claim he makes there that it occupies “center stage in a global history of the nineteenth century”; but he has valuable observations about the belated growth of religious tolerance in Europe (in the early modern period non-western societies had more readily accepted diversity), and the almost total failure of British and American missionaries to convert the “heathen” in India and China to Christianity, why,did they ever think they could?.
In closing, an age of such panoramic creations deserves a chronicler with suitably panoramic inclinations. It has found a very able one in Jürgen Osterhammel.