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Book review: The transformation of the world by Jurgen Osterhammel

The 19th century gave birth to the modern world, so can an epic new history revitalise interest in this period?

By Samuel Moyn   July 2014

Stockport viaduct, 1845: faster transport connected the world in new ways.

In the imagination of historians, the 19th century once reigned supreme. The French Revolution of 1789, some said, had given birth to a “permanent revolution,” as the forces of progress and reaction struggled for supremacy. Karl Marx insisted in his essay, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon,” that the spirit of communism seemed to be burrowing through the 19th century like a mole that would eventually break ground definitively. Twentieth-century historians, who had the benefit of hindsight, knew he…

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