The World In 1800

The World In 1800

  • Publish Date: 2001-04-13
  • Binding: Paperback
  • Author: Olivier Bernier
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Bernier provides us with a riveting chronicle of that time, so vastly different from our own yet so pregnant with meaning for us as we embark upon a new century. From Europe?s bloodstained landscape to the prosperous ports and homesteads of a nascent United States, from the Spanish dominions of Central and South America to the slave trading posts of Africa?s Gold Coast and the lavish interiors of China?s Forbidden City, Bernier takes us on a dizzying journey around the world, providing a finely textured portrait of civilization at the dawn of the modern era. The world two centuries ago was much unlike our own--but closer in spirit to our own time than to the century that preceded it. Across the globe, writes Olivier Bernier, a sense had spread that it was possible for individuals of whatever social station to be free and make their own place in life; although everywhere there was still "a radical separation between the well to do and the rest of the population," the example of revolutionary America and revolutionary France set in motion forces that would lead to the growth of democracy and internationalism alike. Bernier charts this growth and the parallel rise of empires, nationalism, and world trade. He offers some surprising, and fresh, interpretations of history along the way. For instance, he suggests that the restaurant as we know it was the outgrowth of the French revolution, when chefs previously employed by aristocratic households opened their kitchens to anyone who could afford a meal. (The same revolution, he adds, introduced the metric system and the concept of civil marriage to the world.)

Bernier occasionally swims against the tide, arguing, for instance, that Thomas Jefferson did not father children by Sally Hemmings, a slave on his Monticello plantation. (The best evidence suggests otherwise.) But his wide-ranging view of a time when the affairs of one country could influence events thousands of miles away makes for constantly fascinating reading. --Gregory McNamee

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