Hobsbawm links the two great revolutionary years – 1789, the year of the French Revolution and 1848, the year of revolutions that swept Europe but whose effects were more subtle – and describes the events, moments and thoughts of the 50-odd years that separate them. This was also the period of the Industrial Revolution and also revolutions in agriculture and science. Hobsbawm sets this period as the founding of our modern world.
Written in 1962, this book has occasional stylistic lapses which made me stop in a couple of places and go “eh?”. Some of his throwaway comments I also disagreed with, especially in areas which were a little tangential to his main argument. But overall, this is a worthy analysis of the period. Hobsbawm was one of post-war Britain’s noted left-wing academics, but although he gives prominence to the rise of socialism (including the socialists and proto-socialists before Marx and Engels), he also gives due credit to the role of laissez-faire liberalism and capitalism in creating the modern world.