When the Great War ended in 1918, the West was broken. Religious faith, patriotism, and the belief in human progress had all been called into question by the mass carnage experienced by both sides. Shell shocked and traumatized, the West faced a world it no longer recognized: the old order had collapsed, replaced by an age of machines. The world hurtled forward on gears and crankshafts, and terrifying new ideologies arose from the wreckage of past belief.

In Fracture, critically acclaimed historian Philipp Blom argues that in the aftermath of World War I, citizens of the West directed their energies inwards, launching into hedonistic, aesthetic, and intellectual adventures of self-discovery. It was a period of both bitter disillusionment and visionary progress. From Surrealism to Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West; from Fritz Lang's Metropolis to theoretical physics, and from Art Deco to Jazz and the Charleston dance, artists, scientists, and philosophers grappled with the question of how to live and what to believe in a broken age. Morbid symptoms emerged simultaneously from the decay of World War I: progress and innovation were everywhere met with increasing racism and xenophobia. America closed its borders to European refugees and turned away from the desperate poverty caused by the Great Depression. On both sides of the Atlantic, disenchanted voters flocked to Communism and fascism, forming political parties based on violence and revenge that presaged the horror of a new World War.

Vividly recreating this era of unparalleled ambition, artistry, and innovation, Blom captures the seismic shifts that defined the interwar period and continue to shape our world today.
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.

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