Basic Books, 2008
Hardcover, 512 pages
Europe, 1900–1914: a world adrift, a pulsating era of creativity and contradictions. The major topics of the day: terrorism, globalization, immigration, consumerism, the collapse of moral values, and the rivalry of superpowers. The twentieth century was not born in the trenches of the Somme or Passchendaele—but rather in the fifteen vertiginous years preceding World War I.
In this short span of time, a new world order was emerging in ultimately tragic contradiction to the old. These were the years in which the political and personal repercussions of the Industrial Revolution were felt worldwide: Cities grew like never before as people fled the countryside and their traditional identities; science created new possibilities as well as nightmares; education changed the outlook of millions of people; mass-produced items transformed daily life; industrial laborers demanded a share of political power; and women sought to change their place in society—as well as the very fabric of sexual relations.
From the tremendous hope for a new century embodied in the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris to the shattering assassination of a Habsburg archduke in Sarajevo in 1914, historian Philipp Blom chronicles this extraordinary epoch year by year. Prime Ministers and peasants, anarchists and actresses, scientists and psychopaths intermingle on the stage of a new century in this portrait of an opulent, unstable age on the brink of disaster.
Beautifully written and replete with deftly told anecdotes, The Vertigo Years brings the wonders, horrors, and fears of the early twentieth century vividly to life.
This splendid book…is a captivating depiction of an age of rapidity…In sparkling prose and with a trained eye for the telling detail and anecdote, Philipp Blom has sketched the outlines of a total history of the last long decade of the long nineteenth century.
Impressive and thought-provoking….encapsulate[s] complex historical and biographical events pithily and in an illuminating context…The book brings the fears, enthusiasms and blindspots of the period brilliantly to life.
a stimulating and original insight into an all-too-familiar period.. vivid… illuminating….
Piers Brendon, THE SUNDAY TIMES
An account of the fourteen years preceding the First World War, which saw the rise of a new world order, revealing the extent to which the twentieth century was essentially framed before the First World War.”
In this masterful presentation, the time in question is so richly laced with scientific bedazzlement, social ferment and cultural churning that a sense of giddying misadventure begins to feel strangely familiar.
In this enthralling, panoramic sweep of the 15 years preceding the First World War, Blom convincingly argues that it was this decade and a half that truly marked the start of the modern age, with all its grandeur and calamities…. With his impressive synthesis of historical literature, old and recent, and his finely drawn portraits of both emperors and workers, Blom’s “Vertigo Years” will surely enlighten and interest another generation of readers in an era far in the past, yet worth understanding all the same.
GLOBE AND MAIL
Blom … brings an appealing energy and curiosity, and occasional humor, to his subject. … Blom has been remarkably successful at synthesizing a wide range of material, creating a panorama of the whole of European culture during this frantic time—and not just high culture, but the transformation of everyday life by revolutions in sex, shopping, science, and sociology.
Adam Kirsch, NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
…an ambitious book – a one-volume assessment of the gravity-eroding, giddying sweep of European cultural, social, political and spiritual change that permeated the first 15 years of the 20th century. But Philipp Blom has pulled it off triumphantly… a work of narrative history at its best.
Juliet Nicolson, THE GUARDIAN
- Listen to an interview with Philipp about The Vertigo Years
- Interview on the Dutch television show Boeken (in Dutch)