The Age of Astonishment: John Morris in the Miracle Century — From the Civil War to the Cold War


This ingenious biography tells of an peculiar man who lived by way of an incredible century — and never the present one. Throughout latest many years drugs has produced no miracles to match antibiotics, vaccines, and aseptic surgical procedure, journalist Invoice Morris writes. Passenger jets journey solely a bit sooner than within the Fifties. Smartphones enormously enhance on rotary telephones however hardly represent a revolution.

For Morris, the century of really unequalled progress started in 1870. As an alternative of  penning a normal historical past, he writes of his grandfather, born in 1863 and a university professor of no specific word, detouring commonly to recount the good milestones. His oddball take works.

John Morris was born on a Virginia plantation in the course of the Civil Battle. With its slaves freed at warfare’s finish, Morris the  elder discovered work as an English professor on the College of Georgia. Like most southern public establishments even earlier than the Civil Battle, the college was underfinanced and behind the instances, however Morris’s father made certain his sons—although not his daughters—obtained a college schooling as, a number of hundred miles north, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright brothers, and different innovators have been working their magic, whereas in Europe Pasteur, Koch, and Nobel weren’t precisely slacking off.

Having graduated, John taught for a number of years, obtained a regulation diploma, and failed at a regulation apply in Birmingham, Alabama. Accumulating himself, he spent a yr in Germany on the famend College of Berlin the place he took up philology, the examine of language.

Following his father to the College of Georgia in 1894, John taught for 50-plus years, modestly including to an obscure area and witnessing the failure of Reconstruction and the rise of Jim Crow. A uncommon Georgia progressive, he endorsed Black civil rights, ladies’s rights, and pacifism however was no activist, limiting himself to deploring issues.

Southern racial troubles fill a lot of the textual content, however Professor Morris repeatedly notes occasions elsewhere. From electrical lighting to flush bathrooms to the creation of scientific drugs within the nineteenth century to cinema, radio, vehicles, tv, world wars, and the nuclear age within the twentieth, he lived by way of all of them. He was by no means a major determine, even at his college, however the creator has achieved a effective job recounting his grandfather’s profession and home life as he passively witnessed what could be his grandson’s favourite century. —Mike Oppenheim writes in Lexington, Kentucky.

This e book assessment appeared within the Autumn 2022 challenge of Ameican Historical past journal.

The Age of Astonishment: John Morris within the Miracle Century—from the Civil Battle to the Chilly Battle

By Invoice Morris
Pegasus, Cambridge UK, 2022

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