The World That Never Was

The World That Never Was

A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret Agents

Book - 2010
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Random House, Inc.
A thrilling history of the rise of anarchism, told through the stories of a number of prominent revolutionaries and the agents of the secret police who pursued them.
 
In the late nineteenth century, nations the world over were mired in economic recession and beset by social unrest, their leaders increasingly threatened by acts of terrorism and assassination from anarchist extremists. In this riveting history of that tumultuous period, Alex Butterworth follows the rise of these revolutionaries from the failed Paris Commune of 1871 to the 1905 Russian Revolution and beyond. Through the interwoven stories of several key anarchists and the secret police who tracked and manipulated them, Butterworth explores how the anarchists were led to increasingly desperate acts of terrorism and murder.
 
Rich in anecdote and with a fascinating array of supporting characters, The World That Never Was is a masterly exploration of the strange twists and turns of history, taking readers on a journey that spans five continents, from the capitals of Europe to a South Pacific penal colony to the heartland of America. It tells the story of a generation that saw its utopian dreams crumble into dangerous desperation and offers a revelatory portrait of an era with uncanny echoes of our own.

Baker & Taylor
A history of anarchism in the late 19th century is presented through the stories of violent revolutionaries, the secret police who tracked them and famous figures who played lesser-known roles, in a chronicle that traces the Paris Commune of 1871 through the 1905 Russian Revolution. By the award-winning author of Pompeii: The Living City.

Blackwell Publishing
"Gripping and unsettling ... Butterworth makes a first-rate addition to the growing list of books dealing with terrorism's origins and history ... Delivering a virtuoso performance, Butterworth adds the hope that history will not repeat itself and that a successful new bloody ideology will not create the next scourge."---Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"A narrative taut with intrigue and freighted with contemporary significance."---Booklist (starred review)

"Intriguing, provocative and written with a novelist's eye for detail, this book is an engrossing journey into a murky subterranean world---the dark underbelly of the Belle Epoque." ---BBC History Magazine

"An amazing book full of incredible people, all of whom turn out to be real, and unbelievable stories, all of which turn out be true. Against a backdrop of late-nineteenth-century Europe and America, Alex Butterworth brilliantly teases out the paths and plots of the dedicated revolutionaries, deadly dilettantes, spies, informants, agents provocateurs, false counts and femmes fatales who made up the international anarchist movement, and its enemies. A genuine toure de force."---David Aaronovitch, author of Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History

A Thrilling History of the Rise of Anarchism, Told Through the Stories of A Number of Prominent Revolutionaries and the Agents of the Secret Police who Pursued Them.

In the Late Nineteenth Century, nations the world over were mired in economic recession and beset by social unrest, their leaders increasingly threatened by acts of terrorism and assassination from anarchist extremists. In this riveting history of that tumultuous period, Alex Butterworth follows the rise of these revolutionaries from the failed Paris Commune of 1871 to the 1905 Russian Revolution and beyond. Through the interwoven stories of several key anarchists and the secret police who tracked and manipulated them, Butterworth explores how the anarchists were led to increasingly desperate acts of terrorism and murder.

Rich in anecdote and with a fascinating array of supporting characters, The World That Never Was is a masterly exploration of the strange twists and turns of history, taking readers on a journey that spans five continents, from the capitals of Europe to a South Pacific penal colony to the heartland of America. It tells the story of a generation that saw its utopian dreams crumble into dangerous desperation and offers a revelatory portrait of an era with uncanny echoes of our own.

Baker
& Taylor

Presents a history of anarchism from the 1871 Paris Commune to the 1905 Russian Revolution through stories of violent revolutionaries, the secret police who tracked them, and famous figures who played lesser-known roles.
"The World That Never Was" is a thrilling history of the rise of anarchism, told through the stories of several violent revolutionaries and the secret police who pursued them.

Publisher: New York : Pantheon Books, c2010
ISBN: 9780375425110
Branch Call Number: 335.83 BUT
Characteristics: 482 p. : ill

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SCL_Justin Aug 05, 2017

Alex Butterworth’s The World That Never Was is not as phantasmagorical as its title might imply, but if you add in the subtitle – A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists, and Secret Agents – you get a bit closer to the matter. It’s a history of anarchists and revolutionists in 19th century Russia and France primarily. I don’t read a lot of history so I don’t know if it was tremendously accurate. It gave me a bit better an idea of some of the political challenges going on at the time and how the secret police used agents provocateur to try and manoeuvre naive folks to serve other political ends. I liked it because it was about the people who were leftist but not Marxist, which is something I am very capable of forgetting (especially historically).

c
captqrunch
Dec 13, 2016

The narrative is over-long and hard to follow, being syntactically dense, too granular in detail, and chronologically untethered at times. The author promises the moon but delivers a moon pie: the news peg for this book is the discovery of a police dossier believed lost or destroyed a century ago, which upon its release, intriguingly, was heavily redacted. What are the British police trying to hide 100+ years after the fact? Sadly, we'll probably never know. The reader comes away with the impression that a good story was buried somewhere in the vast wealth of detail Mr Butterworth set down --- he would have benefited from a more ruthless editor than the one he apparently had.

dboy1523 Jul 30, 2011

A good review in Bookforum. A fine description of the Paris Commune. After that it seems to lose its way. More interested in the secret police than anarchists. Yet neither group gets in-depth analysis.
It did give me a better understanding of the difference between the anarchist and Marxists. And very revealing of Marx's manipulations during the early Internationals
Overall, it was a letdown

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