The Vertigo Years, By Philipp Blom

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The Independent Culture

"We want to hymn the man at the wheel" – no, not Clarkson 2009 but Marinetti 1909, enraptured like so many lovers of modernity with "the beauty of speed". The Italian cheerleader for Futurism take his place among a squadron of hi-tech revolutionaries in this year-by-year chronicle of innovation and upheaval in Europe from 1900 to 1914.

Switching between abstract art and big-power diplomacy, finance and feminism, ballets and battleships, touring Paris, London, Vienna, Berlin and St Petersburg, Blom shifts gears and takes corners with aplomb.

He aims both to highlight the prophetic power of the first globalised age, as Einstein and Picasso, Woolf and Stravinsky, reached maturity, and to shun the easy hindsight that would throw the blight of the Great War back over all that came before. It's a tough course, but one he negotiates in style.

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