21 internautes sur 22 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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While this scholarly non-heroic book is a project to read, it is rewarding. Professor Osterhammel, a German, commands a vast array of facts in his attempt to describe the various major forces at work during the long 19th century. (His bibliography is longer than the listings contained in some village telephone books.)
Industrialization, state building, frontiers, urbanization, colonialism, religion are among the themes covered in this work. While an attempt is made to draw information from all quarters of the world, the main thrust of the material, especially towards the book's end, seems to me generated from a European perspective, with suitable nods to the U.S., the Ottoman Empire, China, India, and Japan.
I do think someone without much prior reading of history will find this book very difficult to wade through, given its many cursory references to important actors and major events.
56 internautes sur 72 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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I am not terribly impressed by this extremely verbose book on the history of the 19th century. The book has around 1,100 pages, but with a normal font size and line spacing, the book would have close to 2,000 pages! The book consists of some 15 free standing thematic chapters (e.g. cities, knowledge, networks, the state, living standards, frontiers). I have so far only read the "cities" and "knowledge" chapters, but since the chapters are free-standing I believe I can still provide a review.
Potential readers should be aware of the academic term "global history" before buying the book. The basic idea is that all parts of the world are important and having a Eurocentric approach is bad. The author has accepted that this is the way to write history. There is absolutely no attention paid to writing an engaging and fluid history. It is more the writing of a cautious lawyer; too afraid to express any opinion about the true complexity of history. Economic and political history are extremely marginalised. Arguably, those domains of history are of utmost importance to understand the past.
I would say that the book is impossible to read unless you already have a good understanding of 19th century history. Then this book can be an interesting cross-reference. Without prior knowledge, the book will just be an endless accumulation of facts. There is very little context and understanding, because economics and politics are not considered underlying forces. Personally, I think this is a problem with the global history approach. Trying to include everything means that nothing is accomplished. It would have been hard to write the same book about Europe alone. Including other cultural traditions on an equal footing is too too much. I think in 20 years time, historiographers will look back with some amusement how s**t-scared authors were to present a narrative.
A related problem with the book is the writing. In the chapter on cities we get minute details about different kind of cities (e.g. ports, beach resorts, capitals, industrial, cultural, railway connection). The author has a non-enviable ability to make the simple complicated. It all lies in the language that is extremely verbose. In many ways the language is more similar to sociology than history. I know that the book is already long, but I wish the author would have included visual presentation methods (e.g. pictures, tables).
Finally, I point out that the footnotes are endnotes. This is something I really hate. Please put the footnote on the page so that I can see what source is being referenced. Spending 15 sec to find a footnote is just too much when you have 3,000 footnotes (~12 hours extra work). Such lack of attention to detail is just irritating. If I read something interesting, I would like to spend one second finding the source.
I still give the book three stars, because there are nuggets of information. Quite often the author also has thoughtful episodic comments to make. I will revisit the review after I've read a few more selected chapters. My guess is that I might lower the review to two stars.
1 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Charles S. Fisher
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Review of both Geoffrey Parker Global Crisis and
Jürgen Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World.
Neither book could I read from cover to cover. The first had great short narratives of significant events of the 17th century while the second tries to systematize the changes of the 19th. The subtitle of the first seeks explanations as caused by war, climate and catastrophes. While the second is more listy with categories like frontiers, bureaucracy, living standards, empire, etc.
That the global crisis of the 17th century was greater than what proceeded it or came after is certainly debatable. And the author is not convincing in his claims that weather was routinely more important for specific historical events in the 17th century than say rain affecting a battle or a terrible harvest bringing down a government at other times. My attention was brought to a stop in the prologue when the author claimed that the cooling 13,000 BP wiped out most animal life in the northern hemisphere (p. xvi). I like to read about extinctions but I had never heard of this one. The Younger Dryas, which lasted about 1000 years, is a meteorological puzzle. It may have contributed to the demise of megafauna and Clovis culture in North America but hardly had the impact the author claimed. There is no evidence of a drop in human populations, made up of animals I believe, who also may be thought of as megafauna. I know this is a minor point for which the author can be forgiven. But my antennae went up. Yes weather plays many roles in the events of the 17th century but I am not convinced that it was systematically more important than the myriad of other factors which contributed to the outcomes of historical events. And the author often mentions weather ad hominem-ally as a kind of an explanatory crutch. I think the Klingaman family’s book, The Year without Summer: 1816, was more compelling by taking weather and showing how it affected particular events of that year. The events of the entire 17th century are far too complex and the occasions when weather seems to have been significant spread over too many different years that the claim doesn’t cohere. Nonetheless, I found reading mini-narratives of different regions interesting. Although it is covered in great detail in many other books, the section on the Stuarts and the Commonwealth is a very good read. It reminded me of all those events of the English revolution which so affected the North America. Charlie I, you can’t beat him for playing it wrong. And the multiple changes of side of various factions is intriguing. Scotland, for all its protestant sense of order and fairness, certainly takes the cake for bigotry. Charlie simply wanted to be in charge, be king. The Presbyters demanded everyone adhere to their way of religion and had no tolerance for Catholics. Was the return of the Stuarts the first time in history when pleasure outvoted self control? That is ironic. Irish (or is it Scottish) dancing with arms held at the side was supposed to be so that the religious police would not notice that people were dancing when they happened by.
I could read even less of the 19th century book. I guess I am too alienated from the formalism of sociology which was marginal at best in the department where I taught for 30 years. Although Max Weber was pretty much the exception he has not faired so well say in his characterizations of world religions and their ramifications, or even bureaucracies. But I remember the comparative history of political scientists like Barrington Moore, Michael Walzer, Samuel Huntington and the systematic sociology of Parsonians like Neil Smelzer. Systematic history, sociology, and political science lacked insight into historical changes. Capitalist China, the fall of the Soviet Union, the 1960s, the rise of religious and ethnic wars (what are we the Balkans of 1905? And how about the 4th Crusade attacking Constantinople?) The particular details of history often belie the categories posited.
Since I couldn’t read through even a section of the book, I have little right to criticize, but that never stopped anyone in this era of blogs and flaming. Everywhere I turned I found fault with the author’s list of elements which would characterize various general phenomena, like the state or race theories. I kept saying: but but. So I will take the only thing I tried to read more of, Frontiers: comparing the Wild West to Russia’s Wild East. They are both interesting in themselves but one learns little from comparing them because they are so different. Now I didn’t read closely so I may err here. But Western Native Americans were only slightly agriculturalists and not herders. And they were not part of the Eurasian gene and disease pool. They did not have long historical connections with various settled societies contiguous to them. They had the horse for about 100 years versus maybe 4000 in Central Asia and no wheels. They had the buffalo which was like nothing in Eurasia. Both places had Elk (Wapiti) and reindeer (Caribou). First Nations spoke some thousands of languages and North American frontiers differed greatly as they shifted slowly west until hitting the Great Plains at the beginning of the 19th century. Who would compare the Iroquois nation to the Apaches and both collectively to the Kyrgyz and various Siberian ethnic groups. No Mongols swept across North America. On p. 362: the author says that parts of the Ukraine on the edges of the post 15th C. Russian empire had semiautonomous Cossack military societies unlike anything in N. America (OK?) but similar to bandierantes in Brazil. This shows off the authors great breadth of knowledge but I can’t see why it is important. My Teflon frying pan bears no relationship to traditional freeze drying potatoes in the Incan Altiplano of Peru but has some similarities to bakers’ uses of lysine. Interesting, if true, but kind of irrelevant.
Enough said. Both books I imagine will end up as college texts. The students will survive them as they did when I inflicted on them Smelzer’s Collective Behavior. They will probably learn something but they might be better served by more narrative history of a smaller scope (as my students were by sending them into the crowds of the 1968 election).
Charlie Fisher, emeritus prof. and author.
5 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
William E. Mendus
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I am a lifelong student of history and I read constantly. But buying this book was a huge mistake. It is 919 pages of turgid prose that is very difficult to read. Certainly there is a lot to tell about the nineteenth century but the story could be told in may fewer pages. There are far to many tables. There is a detailed review of population trends that could easily have been compressed to half the number of words the author takes to tell the tale. I struggle through 113 pages, then decided that I could not read the rest. I'm going to drop it in the slot to donate it to the public library.
3 internautes sur 8 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Barbara A Renton
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Format: Format Kindle
A brave summary of a tremendous amount of information but needed editing and shaping. Rather dull reading that reveals shining nuggets of facts here and there.