The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret Agents

The World That Never Was: A True Story of Dreamers, Schemers, Anarchists and Secret Agents

by Alex Butterworth (Author)


* The last third of the nineteenth century saw the world in flux. Science vied with religion to represent the soul of man, and technological advances opened the possibility of new ways of living. Yet as the world sank into a long depression, untrammelled capitalism continued to stretch the gulf between rich and poor. From Russia to America, across Western Europe and beyond, governments already unsettled by major shifts in geopolitical power were threatened by growing social unrest and the rise of socialism. And looming over them was the spectre of the Anarchist and the shadow of international terrorism. * A Tsar and an Empress, Presidents and plutocrats were all vulnerable to the assassin's bombs and bullets, but so too was bourgeois society in its cafes and opera houses. It was a new kind of Terror that could strike anywhere and that permeated deep into the imagination of the times. Its true weapon, though, was not dynamite but fear itself: a fact quickly grasped by those whose job it was to protect the powerful. Yet in a credulous age, when hoaxers and forgers thrived, the fictions spun by police chiefs and their agent provocateurs were often no less beguiling. And out of the short-term actions of these forgotten individuals grew the noxious delusions of worldwide conspiracy that would poison the century to come. * A masterly exploration of the strange twists and turns of history, The World That Never Was follows the interweaving lives of several key anarchists, and of the secret police who tracked them. Framed by the Paris Commune of 1871 and the 1905 revolution in St Petersburg, and spread across five continents, theirs is the story of a generation that saw the dream of Utopia crumble, to be replaced by a dangerous desperation. Here is a revelatory portrait of an era with uncanny echoes of our own.


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More Information

Format: Hardcover
Pages: 384
Publisher: The Bodley Head Ltd
Published: 04 Mar 2010

ISBN 10: 0224078070
ISBN 13: 9780224078078
Book Overview: A masterly exploration of the strange twists and turns of history, The World That Never Was is a true story of dreamers, schemers, anarchists and secret agents of the late nineteenth century.

Media Reviews
This is 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 in which staggering industrial progress went hand-in-hand with mass poverty and class struggle, 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 tour de force -- David Aaronovitch
A narrative taut with intrigue and freighted with contemporarysignificance -- Bryce Christensen * Booklist *
Intriguing, provocative and written with a novelist's eye for detail, this book is an engrossing journey into a murky, subterranean world. -- Mike Rapport * BBC History Magazine *
One of the most absorbing depictions of the dark underside of radical politics in many years. ... Butterworth has opted to present the anarchists in a mode that emphasises narrative over analysis. The result is a riveting account, teeming with intrigue and adventure and packed with the most astonishing characters. One cannot help wishing there were more extended analysis, however, for when Butterworth does offer broader observations, they are exceptionally astute. -- John Gray * New Statesman *
This is a thrilling and important book -- James McConnachie * Sunday Times *
Author Bio
Born in 1969, Alex Butterworth is an historian, writer and dramatist whose first book Pompeii: The Living City won the Longmans-History Today New Generation Book of the Year. He lives in Oxford.