The Anxious Triumph: A Global History of Capitalism, 1860-1914

August 4, 2019 - Comment

The long-awaited magnum opus of one of Britain’s most wide-ranging historians Capitalist enterprise has existed in some form since ancient times, but the globalization and dominance of capitalism as a system began in the 1860s when, in different forms and supported by different political forces, states all over the world developed their modern political frameworks:

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The long-awaited magnum opus of one of Britain’s most wide-ranging historians

Capitalist enterprise has existed in some form since ancient times, but the globalization and dominance of capitalism as a system began in the 1860s when, in different forms and supported by different political forces, states all over the world developed their modern political frameworks: the unifications of Italy and Germany, the establishment of a republic in France, the elimination of slavery in the American south, the Meiji Restoration in Japan, the emancipation of the serfs in Tsarist Russia. This book magnificently explores how, after the upheavals of industrialisation, a truly global capitalism followed. For the first time in the history of humanity, there was a social system able to provide a high level of consumption for the majority of those who lived within its bounds. Today, capitalism dominates the world.

With wide-ranging scholarship, Donald Sassoon analyses the impact of capitalism on the histories of many different states, and how it creates winners and losers by constantly innovating. This chronic instability, he writes, ‘is the foundation of its advance, not a fault in the system or an incidental by-product’. And it is this instability, this constant churn, which produces the anxious triumph of his title. To control or alleviate such anxieties it was necessary to create a national community, if necessary with colonial adventures, to develop a welfare state, to intervene in the market economy, and to protect it from foreign competition. Capitalists needed a state to discipline them, to nurture them, and to sacrifice a few to save the rest: a state overseeing the war of all against all.

Vigorous, argumentative, surprising and constantly stimulating, The Anxious Triumph gives a fresh perspective on all these questions and on its era. It is a masterpiece by one of Britain’s most engaging and wide-ranging historians.

Comments

Anonymous says:

Fascinating! This is an enormous tome. There are 530 pages in my copy, plus another 177 reference pages. I’ve read through Donald Sassoon’s dazzling introduction – which could make a small-format paperback by itself – followed by a few chapters picked at random.I’ve turned down the corners of so many pages, I’d be writing an essay instead of a review if I shared all the quotes I felt worth repeating. The book looks into how capitalism started, the many different ways it’s been interpreted by…

Anonymous says:

Voluminous This is an extremely in depth book on the subject in an approachable style. My quibble is that the throwaway parts of the background always follow a dated narrative : Newcomen and Watt are trotted out in abbreviated history (while my other half screams about Joseph Black). Anatomically modern humans of 70,000 years ago weren’t the cave painting, needle using intellectual lot of 20-30,000 years ago. Woven into modern capitalism are systems of gift exchange and redistribution that were described…

Anonymous says:

Scaringly Intelligent Such an enlightening book, and totally fascinating. I feel totally absorbed with this behemoth of a work. How a mind can pull all this together is beyond me. Clearly from an academic base, but highly readable for the man on the street who wants some understanding how modern global economics has evolved from the period 1860 until 1914. So, so recommended.

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