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Behemoth

A History of the Factory and the Making of the Modern World
Narrated by: Stephen Bowlby
Length: 13 hrs and 43 mins
Categories: History, 20th Century
4 out of 5 stars (5 ratings)

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Summary

A sweeping, global history of the rise of the factory and its effects on society 

We live in a factory-made world: modern life is built on three centuries of advances in factory production, efficiency, and technology. But giant factories have also fueled our fears about the future since their beginnings, when William Blake called them "dark Satanic mills". Many factories that operated over the last two centuries - such as Homestead, River Rouge, and Foxconn - were known for the labor exploitation and class warfare they engendered, not to mention the environmental devastation caused by factory production from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution up to today. 

In a major work of scholarship that is also wonderfully accessible, celebrated historian Joshua B. Freeman tells the story of the factory and examines how it has reflected both our dreams and our nightmares of industrialization and social change. He whisks listeners from the textile mills in England that powered the Industrial Revolution and the factory towns of New England to the colossal steel and car plants of 20th-century America, Eastern Europe, and the Soviet Union and on to today's behemoths making sneakers, toys, and cellphones in China and Vietnam. 

The giant factory, Freeman shows, led a revolution that transformed human life and the environment. He traces arguments about factories and social progress through such critics and champions as Marx and Engels, Charles Dickens, Alexander Hamilton, Henry Ford, and Joseph Stalin. He chronicles protests against standard industry practices from unions and workers' rights groups that led to shortened workdays, child labor laws, protection for organized labor, and much more. 

In Behemoth, Freeman also explores how factories became objects of great wonder that both inspired and horrified artists and writers in their time. He examines representations of factories in the work of Charles Sheeler, Margaret Bourke-White, Charlie Chaplin, Diego Rivera, and Edward Burtynsky. 

Behemoth tells the grand story of global industry from the Industrial Revolution to the present. It is a magisterial work on factories and the people whose labor made them run. And it offers a piercing perspective on how factories have shaped our societies and the challenges we face now. 

©2018 Joshua B. Freeman (P)2018 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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Profile Image for Alec Drumm
  • Alec Drumm
  • 01-05-18

Megafactories in past and present

The title of this book is somewhat misleading, because the text focuses on the largest factories in history - those with many thousands of employees. I was expecting a discussion of the evolution of the factory from its early manufacturing days to its present smaller, delocalized state. However, the book centers on the very large factories.

The early chapters on the factories that were first built in England during the industrial revolution to the assembly lines of Henry Ford are quite interesting. The book is very strong in describing working conditions in such places which are often terrible but sometimes good.

However, my attention flagged when the text shifted to steel manufacturing in Soviet Russia and later to electronics manufacturing at the enormous factory cities of Foxconn. The writer seems to be more interested in the sociological and cultural aspects of giant factories, rather than the technology and management methods required to operate them. This makes the book quite boring. The discussion of Soviet factories in particular seems to go on forever.

The narration is OK, but it annoyed me that all the foreign sources are done in accented English as if the authors were immigrants. It makes such sources appear less impactful. For example, Karl Marx is done with a heavy Russian accent, even though he was born in Germany and lived most of his life in London. The narrator seemed to lose interest himself at times and became quite monotonous.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for J. R. Valery
  • J. R. Valery
  • 13-03-18

Get rid of the fake accents

An otherwise excellent work. The fake accents are phony and downright insulting to the listener

10 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Jeff Jarvis
  • Jeff Jarvis
  • 16-03-18

Terrible reading: overdone and wrong!

What disappointed you about Behemoth?

From the very first line, I was shouting at my speakers. The book begins with a quote from Karl Marx and the performer decides to read this with an accent -- for no good reason whatsover--and then make it worse by giving Karl Marx a Russian accent! He's German, for God's sake. The audio is sloppy with overlapping inserts left in. The performance is unbearable. God bless Audible for allowing returns.

How could the performance have been better?

Different performer!

8 of 11 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Merritt McKinney
  • Merritt McKinney
  • 07-12-18

Horrible accents!

The reader was fine but I almost asked for a refund because of the horrible accents. Please, please, please don't attempt accents in a nonfiction book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Rosemary
  • Rosemary
  • 05-04-18

A Good book badly performed

This is a fascinating subject and well written too but the narrator goes off the deep end with British, French and German accents that he doesn’t imitate well at all. Drove me crazy. Have to get the hardcover instead!

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Profile Image for Jason S Miller
  • Jason S Miller
  • 11-10-19

A Behemoth book on modernity

I fell like this book was brought to you by the word "modernity" which was used in every chapter multiple times, enough that it became annoying to hear.

This was a behemoth - I was interested in the impact factories had on people, the communities around them and society - but it didn't really talk much about that or it got lost in the quotes visitors to these factories made. Quotes that the narrator did in various accents - not sure if that was helpful or not.

I did like hearing about the birth of factories in the birth of the soviet union and the massive Fox-Conn factories with 300,000 people - but felt the history could have been presented better.

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  • WowZowNowCow
  • 09-07-19

Addendum

I stopped everything I was doing and ran up here to add this to my other review, but I don't think it was published yet. But this can't wait.

The single STUPIDEST and WORST audio book in the HISTORY of audio books. Aside from execrable accent like a Canadian three-year-old trying to imitate the queen (self-consciously dropping the letter R, rather than using an English R) no matter what the class or background of the English person being quoted - he just did Karl Marx in....drum roll, please....a RUSSIAN accent. hahahahahahahahahaha

I cannot conceive how the publisher allowed this narration to be used. The book is great. The audio version is so excruciatingly horrific that it's almost comical. It would be, if I didn't really want to hear the content. But...Karl Marx with a Russian accent? My God!

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Profile Image for Dr. Mike
  • Dr. Mike
  • 06-03-19

Great history book

I am a lifelong reader of history , and this is one of the best histories I have ever read. I feel like this book fills in a great missing piece of the story of modern economic, social and political history. Insightful, balanced, readable. I hated for it to end!



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Profile Image for RS
  • RS
  • 16-01-19

Narrator does cringeworthy accents

The narrator does a reasonable job most of the time, but when narrating someone with an accent, he does extremely cringeworthy impressions of foreign accents. Had to stop listening to the book altogether after one too many occurrences.

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Profile Image for Happy Camper
  • Happy Camper
  • 09-04-18

Extraordinary synthesis

This is an extraordinary work that pulls together a vast literature the spans centuries and topics.More than a narrow scholarly work we learn not only of the history of a central institution but of its place in transforming the culture, politics and lives of an entire world. It should and will be read by anyone interested in the social, cultural and political history of the societies we all live in.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful