The short twentieth century is used by Eric Hobsbawm (who has a claim to being one of the most renowned historians in the world and has written many well received works regarding the nineteenth century) in his acclaimed book "Age of Extremes" (published 1994) to describe and assess the dominant political theories of this period. The short twentieth century as defined by Hobsbawm spans from the start of the first world war, to the fall of the Soviet Union and the thawing of the cold war, that is the years 1914 to 1991.

Hobsbawm then further subdivided the period into the "Age of Catastrophe" (1914-1950), "The Golden Age" (1950-1975), and "The Landslide" (1975-1991). The concept of the short twentieth century is regarded as a successor to the more widely known (in historical terms) long nineteenth century, which covers the period of the French revolution (1789) to the outbreak of renewed hostilities in Europe in 1914.

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