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Publisher's Summary

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.

©1991 Paul Johnson (P)1991 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Surprised By a Negative Review

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

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.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Birth of the Modern?

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.

Have you listened to any of Wanda McCaddon’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

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.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No.

Any additional comments?

Paul Johnson fills in for all those history classes we skipped in college. He is absolutely brilliant.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Great!

Heavy stuff, but brilliant analysis. Leads one to wish to hear more and more history by Johnson.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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The way all history books should be written

I had put this book in my wish list about a year and a half ago (based on an Audible suggestion), but had hesitated to purchase it because of its length. Other histories of this length that I have listened to seem to have long dreary parts that make listening painful. This is not the case with this book. The writing is lively and insightful and the narrator, a brit, has a crisp enjoyable voice with impeccable diction. I walk out of doors; so this is critical for me.
Johnson illustrates the fifteen years of his book with a clever weave of the arts, science, technology, politics, sex, war and revolution. He lets the protagonists speak for themselves and is not circumspect with his opinions or the opinions of contemporaries. Having finished this book, I feel that I have a solid sense of the period, what happened, what people thought and did and how society changed.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Loved it. Comprehensive history.

History written in a way to include societal thoughts and feelings. Cram end with facts.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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the most interesting history book I've ever read

Any additional comments?

This book pretty much deals with just fifteen years in the history of (mostly) the English speaking world, but it's a most fascinating fifteen years. I found this read so satisfying, so full of "I never knew thats", so clear and thorough in its recounting of every facet of the history of this time: of its technical developments, its intellectual inventiveness, its social conceits, its political and geographic changes, its influence on the years that followed. The early nineteenth century transitioning into the industrial revolution has always been one of my favorite times in the history of the world, here so well told by a meticulous historian who is also a most talented storyteller, that I felt like a time-traveler being treated to a visit back to the years 1815 to 1830. I read this book with delight, then reread it once and then again because it's so rich in detail and because those few years made such a difference in the direction the world headed from there. I am neither historian nor particularly a history geek; but this is the way I think all history ought to be written. I enjoyed this history more than any other I have ever read. Please! More from this author.

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  • Ray
  • Long Valley, NJ, United States
  • 10-05-12

Much Ado about Nothing

I had a hard time finishing this book - it just seemed to go on forever. Perhaps I was misled by the portrait of Andrew Jackson on the cover. There was very little about the US, instead there were extensive discussions of all the oddities of the British aristocracy and artistic community. Way too much information that I had no interest in, though I am sure there are some who would think otherwise.

The recording seemed a bit off, not pleasant to listen to.

4 of 16 people found this review helpful