Hobsbawm’s Age of Revolution – The World in the 1780s

Hobsbawm‘s opening chapter is a dazzling survey of the world (specifically, the European world) on the eve of the “dual revolution”. He sketches out the forces and relations of production and shows how intellectual and political structures and developments derived from this economic base. This is a dynamic picture of a world in flux and on the brink of revolutionary change – poised between old forces and new, dynamic elements and static, governed by a political order rendered obsolete by economic change. In short, this is a magnificent application of the method of Karl Marx to elucidate, to understand, and to explain. Continue reading

Liberal Tsarism? Part II

Bolt from the blue

“…liberal pressure for further reform could be expected to gather momentum. Meanwhile, the military power of the State remained sufficient to maintain order while the beneficial medicine of socio-economic development consolidated the bases for a western-style pluralist democracy. ‘Then, as a thunderbolt, came the terrible catastrophe of 1914, and progress changed into destruction.'(Pavlovsky)” Continue reading

Introducing Edward Gibbon – Part II

Gibbons decline and fall

I do not propose to write in depth at this stage about Edward Gibbon’s intellectual assumptions and preoccupations, as I hope to elucidate these through my reading of his Decline and Fall. But it would be useful to make some preliminary remarks about Gibbon as an Enlightenment thinker. Continue reading

Introducing Edward Gibbon

Gibbon's Decline and Fall Everyone has heard of Gibbon’s History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. But how many have actually read it, all of it – six volumes, 1.5 million words, 8362 footnotes? I must confess that, although I have studied the later Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages (the “Dark Ages”, as they used to be called), I have not – beyond some excerpts in abridgement. So my project for the forthcoming year (or probably somewhat longer) is to rectify this, and as I do so, to summarise Gibbon, chapter by chapter, and attempt to work towards an understanding not only of the decline and fall of the Roman empire, but also of the nature of Gibbon’s historical work and thought. Continue reading