Menu Expand
Minutes to Midnight

Minutes to Midnight

Paul Dukes


Additional Information

Book Details


The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 by a group of atomic scientists to symbolise the perils facing humanity from nuclear weapons. In 2007 it was set at five minutes before the final bell, including for the first time the threat of climate change as well as new developments in the life sciences and nanotechnology. This book aims at an analysis of the evolution of our present predicament throughout the Anthropocene Era beginning in 1763, making special reference to the history of the period, the study of the subject and major advances in the natural sciences.

Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson set out the basis for a scientific approach to the pre-industrial stages of historical development in the Enlightenment of the late eighteenth century, when the American and French Revolutions created a vocabulary of modernity. Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, as the industrial revolution unfolded in several stages, nationalism, imperialism and totalitarianism were among the phenomena impeding the update of the Enlightenment programme as well as the fulfilment of the aspirations of 1776 and 1789. Our present predicament demands a rigorous examination of its origins and an assertion of a scientific pandisciplinary approach involving history and other academic specialisations.

'‘Minutes to Midnight’ is a profoundly erudite and original work, formidable in intellectual scope and bristling with insight. It should be essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the contemporary world and the role of history.' —Dr Murray Frame, University of Dundee

‘The clarity of Dukes’s contentions, coupled with his crystalline writing style, allows readers to grasp the multifaceted points with thought-provoking ease. Indispensable for students of historiography and historical methodology. Highly recommended.’ —M. J. C. Taylor, Paine College, ‘Choice’

Born in Wallington, Surrey in 1934, Paul Dukes has history degrees from Cambridge, 1954, Washington, 1956 and London, 1964. He has been associated with Aberdeen University since 1964, with visiting appointments at Auckland and Cornell. He is the author of a wide range of publications on Russian, European and world history.

The book examines the evolution of the predicament symbolised by the setting of the Doomsday Clock at a few minutes to midnight in the context of the Anthropocene Era from 1763, making special reference to the study of history throughout the period. It seeks to demonstrate the necessity for history as science, while pointing out the inadequacy of some previous approaches. It argues for a pandisciplinary approach to today’s crisis.

'Professor Dukes’ unique capacity for global analysis across centuries has with penetrating brilliance examined the topic of our times, the roots of the ecological crisis. This is engaged history from an outstanding historian; an absolute must read.' —Professor Ian D. Thatcher, University of Ulster

'Paul Dukes has written a significant book, arguing that we live in a new geological age, one that was and continues to be shaped in the most profound way by humankind. The world is “ours” in a way that it has never been before, and we can thank Paul Dukes for telling us so, and suggesting what new responsibilities this “ownership” entails.' —Professor Marshall Poe, University of Iowa

'At last, a historian with the courage and vision to shake us out of our postmodernist torpor. Dukes’ grand tour – from the tentative experiments of James Watt to nuclear twilight and climate catastrophe – starkly reminds us how quickly we have come to the edge of our own anthropogenic abyss.' —Dr Mark Levene, University of Southampton

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Front Matter i
Half Title i
Title Page iii
Copyright Page iv
Main Matter 1
James Watt and the First Industrial Revolution 11
Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson: The Stages of Historical Development 13
The American and French Revolutions 17
Enlightenment and Intellectual Revolutions 20
Napoleon 25
Conclusion 26
Chapter 3: NATIONS AND -ISMS, 1815–1871 29
Nations and -Isms 29
Monarchism, Nationalism, Liberalism 31
Socialism 35
Darwinism and Other -Isms 39
History and Historians 42
Conclusion 45
Chapter 4: NATURAL SELECTION, 1871–1921 47
The New Imperialism 47
The Second Scientific and Industrial Revolution 49
New History and Culture 53
The First World War and Russian Revolution 61
The Circumstances of Peace 63
Conclusion 63
‘Normalcy’ and Breakdown, 1921–1929 65
The Revival of History 68
From Depression to War, 1929–1939, and History 73
The Second World War, 1939–1945, and History 76
The Arrival of the Atomic Bomb 79
Conclusion 83
Chapter 6: SUPERPOWER, 1945–1968 85
Superpower 85
The Cold War and Decolonisation 89
Another New History? 91
The Cold War and History 96
Decolonisation and History 99
Conclusion 102
Chapter 7: PLANET EARTH, 1968–1991 105
Globalisation 105
1968 and After 107
The Club of Rome, the Brandt Commission and Gaia 108
History, Historical Sociology, Postmodernism 111
The World by 1991 117
Conclusion 120
Chapter 8: MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT, 1991– 121
The Crisis 121
What Crisis? ‘The End of History’, ‘The Clash of Civilizations’ and After 123
Summary: The Anthropocene Era 126
Conclusion: Towards Pandisciplinarity 130
End Matter 135
Chapter 1. Introduction: Times and Approaches 135
Chapter 2. Enlightenment and Revolutions, 1763–1815 136
Chapter 3. Nations and -Isms, 1815–1871 138
Chapter 4. Natural Selection, 1871–1921 140
Chapter 5. From Relativity to Totalitarianism, 1921–1945 141
Chapter 6. Superpower, 1945–1968 143
Chapter 7. Planet Earth, 1968–1991 145
Chapter 8. Minutes to Midnight, 1991– 146