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The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848 (1962)

de Eric Hobsbawm

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Séries: Hobsbawm's Histories (1)

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Between 1789 and 1848 the world was transformed both by the French Revolution and also by the Industrial Revolution that originated in Britain. This 'Dual Revolution' created the modern world as we know it. Eric Hobsbawm traces with brilliant analytical clarity the transformation brought about in every sphere of European life by the Dual Revolution - in the conduct of war and diplomacy; in new industrial areas and on the land; among peasantry, bourgeoisie and aristocracy; in methods of government and of revolution; in science, philosophy and religion; in literature and the arts. But above all he sees this as the period when industrial capitalism established the domination over the rest of the world it was to hold for a century. Eric Hobsbawm's enthralling and original account is an impassioned but objective history of the most significant sixty years in the history of Europe.… (mais)
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Nome do autorFunçãoTipo de autorObra?Status
Eric Hobsbawmautor principaltodas as ediçõescalculado
Braudel, FrançoiseTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
Pineau, Jean-ClaudeTradutorautor secundárioalgumas ediçõesconfirmado
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The situation in Ireland was more dramatic. Here a population of small, economically backward, highly insecure tenants practising subsistence farming paid the maximum rent to a smallish body of foreign, non-cultivating, generally absentee landlords. Except in the north-east (Ulster) the country had long been deindustrialized by the mercantilist policy of the British government whose colony it was, and more recently by the competition of British industry. A single technical innovation—the substitution of the potato for the previously prevalent types of farming—had made a large increase in population possible, for an acre of land under potatoes can feed far more people than one under grass, or indeed under most other crops. The landlords’ demand for the maximum number of rent-paying tenants, and later also for a labour force to cultivate the new farms which exported food to the expanding British market, encouraged the multiplication of tiny holdings: by 1841 in Connacht 64 per cent of all larger holdings were under five acres, without counting the unknown number of dwarf holdings under one acre.

Thus during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the population multiplied on such patches, living on little except 10–12 lb. of potatoes a day per person and—at least until the milk and an occasional taste of herring; a population unparalleled in Western Europe for its poverty. Since there was no alternative employment—for industrialization was excluded—the end of this evolution was mathematically predictable. Once the population had grown to the limits of the last potato patch carved out of the last piece of just cultivable bog, there would be catastrophe. Soon after the end of the French wars its advance signs appeared. Food shortage and epidemic disease began once again to decimate a people whose mass agrarian discontent is only too easily explained. The bad harvests and crop diseases of the middle forties merely provided the firing squad for an already condemned people. Nobody knows, or will ever precisely know, the human cost of the Great Irish Famine of 1847, which was by far the largest human catastrophe in European history during our period. Rough estimates suggest that something like one million people died of and through hunger and another million emigrated from the stricken island between 1846 and 1851. In 1820 Ireland had just under seven million inhabitants. In 1846 she had perhaps eight and a half. In 1851 she was reduced to six and a half and her population has gone down steadily through emigration since. ‘Heu dira fames!’ wrote a parish priest, reverting to the tones of chroniclers in the dark ages, ‘Heu saeva hujus memorabilis anni pestilentia!’ in those months when no children came to be christened in the parishes of Galway and Mayo, because none were born.
Of all the economic consequences of the age of dual revolution this division between the ‘advanced’ and the ‘underdeveloped’ countries proved to be the most profound and the most lasting. Roughly speaking by 1848 it was clear which countries were to belong to the first group, i.e., Western Europe (minus the Iberian peninsula), Germany, Northern Italy, and parts of Central Europe, Scandinavia, the USA, and perhaps the colonies settled by English-speaking migrants. But it was equally clear that the rest of the world was, apart from small patches, lagging, or turning—under the informal pressure of Western exports and imports or the military pressure of Western gunboats and military expeditions—into economic dependences of the West. Until the Russians in the 1930s developed means of leaping this chasm between the ‘backward’ and the ‘advanced,’ it would remain immovable, untraversed, and indeed growing wider, between the minority and the majority of the world’s inhabitants. No fact has determined the history of the twentieth century more firmly than this.
The massive contempt of the ‘civilized’ for the ‘barbarians’ (who included the bulk of labouring poor at home) rested on this feeling of demonstrated superiority. The middle-class world was freely open to all. Those who failed to enter its gates therefore demonstrated a lack of personal intelligence, moral force, or energy which automatically condemned them; or at best a historic or racial heritage which must permanently cripple them, or else they would already have made use of their opportunities. The period which culminated about the middle of the century was therefore one of unexampled callousness, not merely because the poverty which surrounded middle-class respectability was so shocking that the native rich learned not to see it, leaving its horrors to make their full impact only on visiting foreigners (as the horrors of Indian slums today do), but because the poor, like the outer barbarians, were talked of as though they were not properly human at all. If their fate was to become industrial labourers they were merely a mass to be forced into the proper disciplinary mould by sheer coercion, the draconic factory discipline being supplemented by the aid of the state. (It is characteristic that contemporary middle-class opinion saw no incompatibility between the principle of equality before the law and the deliberately discriminatory labour codes, which, as in the British Master and Servant code of 1823, punished the workers by prison for breaches of contract and the employers merely by modest fines, if at all.) They ought to be constantly on the verge of starvation, because otherwise they would not work, being inaccessible to ‘human’ motives. ‘It is to the interest of the worker himself,’ Villermé was told in the late 1830s by employers, ‘that he should be constantly harassed by need, for then he will not set his children a bad example, and his poverty will be a guarantee of good behaviour.’ There were nevertheless too many poor for their own good, but it was to be hoped that the operations of Malthus’s law would starve off enough of them to establish a viable maximum; unless of course per absurdum the poor established their own rational checks on population by refraining from an excessive indulgence in procreation.

It was but a small step from such an attitude to the formal recognition of inequality, which, as Henri Baudrillart argued in his inaugural lecture at the College de France in 1853, was one of the three pillars of human society, the other two being property and inheritance. The hierarchical society was thus reconstructed on the foundations of formal equality. It had merely lost what made it tolerable in the old days: the general social conviction that men had duties and rights, that virtue was not simply the equivalent of money, and that the lower order, though low, had a right to their modest lives in the station to which God had called them.
THE LABOURING POOR

Every manufacturer lives in his factory like the colonial planters in the midst of their slaves, one against a hundred, and the subversion of Lyons is a sort of insurrection of San Domingo. . . . The barbarians who menace society are neither in the Caucasus nor in the steppes of Tartary; they are in the suburbs of our industrial cities. . . . The middle class must clearly recognize the nature of the situation; it must know where it stands.

                    Saint-Marc Girardin in Journal des Débats, December 8, 1831
That resistance was only strengthened by the opposition of even the bourgeois to such aspects of pure individual free competition as did not actually benefit him. Nobody was more devoted to individualism than the sturdy American farmer and manufacturer, no Constitution more opposed than theirs—or so their lawyers believed until our own century—to such interferences with freedom as federal child-labour legislation. But nobody was more firmly committed, as we have seen, to ‘artificial’ protection for their businesses. New machinery was one of the chief benefits to be expected from private enterprise and free competition. But not only the labouring Luddites arose to smash it: the smaller businessmen and farmers in their regions sympathized with them, because they also regarded innovators as destroyers of men’s livelihood. Farmers actually sometimes left their machines out for rioters to destroy, and the government had to send a sharply worded circular in 1830 to point out that ‘machines are as entitled to the protection of the law as any other description of property.’ The very hesitation and doubt with which, outside the strongholds of bourgeois-liberal confidence, the new entrepreneur entered upon his historic task of destroying the social and moral order, strengthened the man’s conviction.
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Between 1789 and 1848 the world was transformed both by the French Revolution and also by the Industrial Revolution that originated in Britain. This 'Dual Revolution' created the modern world as we know it. Eric Hobsbawm traces with brilliant analytical clarity the transformation brought about in every sphere of European life by the Dual Revolution - in the conduct of war and diplomacy; in new industrial areas and on the land; among peasantry, bourgeoisie and aristocracy; in methods of government and of revolution; in science, philosophy and religion; in literature and the arts. But above all he sees this as the period when industrial capitalism established the domination over the rest of the world it was to hold for a century. Eric Hobsbawm's enthralling and original account is an impassioned but objective history of the most significant sixty years in the history of Europe.

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