Your review pillories the cranky revisionist "they're all fools, fools!" spirit very nicely, and rightly. I can't quite share, though, your downplaying of the importance of the general social changes c. 1700. It's true that 1820-1920 might represent a bigger change in the sense that it was then that a certain modern, middle class way of life, style of being, and enjoyment of political rights actually broadened out to a statistically significant portion of the population, but it seems to me the model for that modern way of life and being was set c. 1700, even if it took more than a century for that way of life to spread beyond a few thousand merchant and professional families in the south of England. The enjoyment of non-essential but also non-precious consumer goods like chocolate and sugar; the relatively large numbers of people being educated to make a good living and to enjoy life, rather than to pursue a life of service to superiors or to the state or to God; the whole relaxed, complacent, respectably dull Addison and Steele way of being--those are all things our contemporary society pursues with all its heart, and the genealogy of the model goes back to c. 1700. Nineteenth-century middle class clerks and engineers and workers' self-help societies were all, in a sense, trying to reach a life something like that of a London merchant family c. 1700. They were not trying to become like medieval aristocrats, or any other comparable historical minority--only the comfortable middle class model as it developed c. 1700 and later. Even if other societies have come up with something like the same model, it's this c. 1700 society specifically that's passed on the model to us today.
In terms of a lifestyle to which people in the modern world aspire, you may be right that it was created by the English and Dutch merchant classes of c. 1700. But other things about modern life appear at different times. The cult of the "projecter", the man with a big project, what we would call an entrepreneur, goes back to the 16th century. The archaeological record looks very much the same for most people until after 1750, and it doesn't changes dramatically after about 1870. In terms of scientific thinking, the 17th century is key; in terms of women's rights, the 20th. One of the things I believe about history is that different things about life change at different speeds, so you can't point to any particular 50-year-period and say "that was when the modern world began."
Well, yes--though I think the complacent consumer lifestyle is rather more prominent today than the other phenomena you mention--at least in the experience of students.FWIW, my experience is that the "projector" ethos goes back to the Middle Ages, when monarchs and other lords of various sorts organize enterprises, companies, etc., in various political-military ventures, often with investor backing, and in political contexts these enterprises are presented precisely as "projects" undertaken with risks, liabilities, and promised advantageous results.
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