"American Midwest to Shanghai, from London to Tokyo, the 1850s was a decade of extraordinary change and upheaval: the world economy expanded fivefold; millions of families emigrated to the ends of the earth to carve out lives in the wilderness; new technologies revolutionized how people communicated; and railways cut across great continents. Steam ships, telegraphs, photographs and pharmaceuticals all proliferated. In Heyday, an epic story of global connections and coincidences, the acclaimed historian Ben Wilson paints a picture of a world on the brink of seismic transformation. He reveals an age of remorseless, breathtaking change that intoxicated contemporaries and convinced them that the future held out the promise of exponential progress. Heyday begins in the rainforests of Malaya. These decades witnessed momentous political revolutions and bloody wars, from the Crimean War to the unifications of Italy and Germany and the American Civil War. Meanwhile, the forces of modernization and the West's insatiable hunger for land, natural resources, and new markets seemed to be blasting down all physical resistance to trade, exploration, and colonization. The supreme self-confidence of the time brought the West into violent conflict with China, Japan, India, and Native Americans. Above all, Wilson argues that this era was driven by the idea that free trade was equivalent to personal and political freedom--a philosophy that has had a long and, some would argue, pernicious afterlife. Following ordinary men and women--including buccaneers in Nicaragua, cocktail drinkers in Minnesota, pirates in Hong Kong, and guerrilla fighters in the Caucasus Mountains--Heyday is an exhilarating tour through the tumultuous period that gave shape to the modern world"-- Provided by publisher.
"From the author of the bestselling Empire of the deep, a globe-spanning narrative history of the 1850s--a time of electrifying change--seen through the eyes of the men and women who embraced the adventurous spirit of the times. Heyday brings to life one of the most extraordinary periods in modern history. From 1851, in the space of little more than a decade, the world was reshaped by technology, trade, mass migration and war. As instantaneous electric communication bridged the vast gulfs that separated human societies, millions of settlers travelled to the far corners of the Earth, building vast cities out of nothing in lightning-quick time. A new generation of fast steamships and railways connected these burgeoning frontier societies, shrinking the world and creating an interlinked global economy. In the company of fortune-seekers and ordinary migrants, we journey to these rapidly expanding frontiers, savouring the frenetic activity and optimism of the boom-towns of the 1850s in Australia, New Zealand the United States. This is a story not only of rapid progress, but of the victims of an assurgent West: indigenous peoples who stood in the pathways of economic expansion, Asian societies engulfed by the forces of modernisation. We join, among others, Muslim guerrilla fighters in the Caucasus mountains and freelance empire-builders in the jungles of Nicaragua, British free trade zealots preying on China and samurai warriors resisting Western incursions in Japan. No less important are the inventions, discoveries and technologies that powered progress, and the great engineering projects that characterised the Victorian heyday, notably the transatlantic telegraph cable. In a fast-paced, kaleidoscopic narrative, Ben Wilson recreates a time of explosive energy and dizzying change, a rollercoaster ride of booms and bust, witnessed through the eyes of the men and women reshaping its frontiers. At the centre stands Great Britain. The country was the peak of its power between 1851 and the mid-1860s as it attempted to determine the destinies of hundreds of millions of people. Heyday is a dazzlingly innovative take on a period of extraordinary transformation, a little-known decade that was fundamental in the making not only of Britain but of the modern world"--From publisher's website.