Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties

Reviews with Integrated Context

Books You May Like

Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties

Author: Paul Johnson
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Copyright: 1983
Pages: 870
Cover Price: $ 20.00

Enter a word or phrase in the box below

The history of the 20th century is marked by two great narratives: nations locked in savage wars over ideology and territory, and scientists overturning the received wisdom of preceding generations. For Paul Johnson, the modern era begins with one of the second types of revolutions, in 1919, when English astronomer Sir Arthur Eddington translated observations from a solar eclipse into proof of Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, which turned Newtonian physics on its head. Eddington's research became an international cause célèbre: "No exercise in scientific verification, before or since, has ever attracted so many headlines or become a topic of universal conversation," Johnson writes, and it made Einstein into science's first real folk hero.

Einstein looms large over Johnson's narrative, as do others who sought to harness the forces of nature and society: men like Mao Zedong, "a big, brutal, earthy and ruthless peasant," and Adolf Hitler, creator of "a brutal, secure, conscience-less, successful, and, for most Germans, popular regime." Johnson takes a contentious conservative viewpoint throughout: he calls the 1960s "America's suicide attempt," deems the Watergate affair "a witch-hunt ... run by liberals in the media," and deems the rise of Margaret Thatcher a critical element in Western civilization's "recovery of freedom"--arguable propositions all, but ones advanced in a stimulating and well-written narrative that provides much food for thought in the course of its more than 800 pages. --Gregory McNamee

Click for the original review.

Background Information

Albert Einstein revolutionized science with his theory of relativity, first published in 1903, and was influential in persuading FDR of the potential for atomic weapons in World War II. The Watergate scandal began as a botched burglary of the offices of the Democratic National Committee in the Watergate complex in 1968.