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Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 [Paperback]

Tony Judt
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 5 2006
Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize
Winner of the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Book Award
One of the 
New York Times' Ten Best Books of the Year

Almost a decade in the making, this much-anticipated grand history of postwar Europe from one of the world's most esteemed historians and intellectuals is a singular achievement. Postwar is the first modern history that covers all of Europe, both east and west, drawing on research in six languages to sweep readers through thirty-four nations and sixty years of political and cultural change-all in one integrated, enthralling narrative. Both intellectually ambitious and compelling to read, thrilling in its scope and delightful in its small details, Postwar is a rare joy.


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From Amazon

World War II may have ended in 1945, but according to historian Tony Judt, the conflict's epilogue lasted for nearly the rest of the century. Calling 1945-1989 "an interim age," Judt examines what happened on each side of the Iron Curtain, with the West nervously inching forward while the East endured the "peace of the prison yard" until the fall of Communism in 1989 signaled their chance to progress. Though he proposes no grand, overarching theory of the postwar period, Judt's massive work covers the broad strokes as well as the fine details of the years 1945 to 2005. No one book (even at nearly a thousand pages) could fully encompass this complex period, but Postwar comes close, and is impressive for its scope, synthesis, clarity, and narrative cohesion.

Judt treats the entire continent as a whole, providing equal coverage of social changes, economic forces, and cultural shifts in western and eastern Europe. He offers a county-by-county analysis of how each Eastern nation shed Communism and traces the rise of the European Union, looking at what it represents both economically and ideologically. Along with the dealings between European nations, he also covers Europe's conflicted relationship with the United States, which learned much different lessons from World War II than did Europe. In particular, he studies the success of the Marshall Plan and the way the West both appreciated and resented the help, for acceptance of it reminded them of their diminished place in the world. No impartial observer, Judt offers his judgments and opinions throughout the book in an attempt to instruct as well as inform. If a moral lesson is to come from World War II, Judt writes, "then it will have to be taught afresh with each passing generation. 'European Union' may be an answer to history, but it can never be a substitute." This book would be an excellent place to start that lesson. --Shawn Carkonen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. This is the best history we have of Europe in the postwar period and not likely to be surpassed for many years. Judt, director of New York University's Remarque Institute, is an academic historian of repute and, more recently, a keen observer of European affairs whose powerfully written articles have appeared in the New York Times, the New York Review of Books and elsewhere. Here he combines deep knowledge with a sharply honed style and an eye for the expressive detail. Postwar is a hefty volume, and there are places where the details might overwhelm some readers. But the reward is always there: after pages on cabinet shuffles in some small country, or endless diplomatic negotiations concerning the fate of Germany or moves toward the European Union, the reader is snapped back to attention by insightful analysis and excellent writing. Judt shows that the dire human and economic costs of WWII shadowed Europe for a very long time afterward. Europeans and Americans recall the economic miracle, but it didn't really transform people's lives until the late 1950s, when a new, more individualized, consumer-oriented society began to appear in the West. But Postwar is not just a history of Western Europe. One of its great virtues is that it fully integrates the history of Eastern and Western Europe, and covers the small countries as well as the large and powerful ones. Judt is judicious, even a bit uncritical, in his appraisal of American involvement in Europe in the early postwar years, and he's scathing about Western intellectuals' accommodation to communism. His book focuses on cultural and intellectual life rather than the social experiences of factory workers or peasants, but it would probably be impossible to encompass all of it in one volume. Overall, this is history writing at its very best.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War offered a prospect of utter misery and desolation. Read the first page
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good good Feb. 14 2006
Overall: a tremendously insightful and worthwhile read. There is always a danger with non fiction books as large in scope as this of descending into, what the book jacket even describes as, "dutiful plodding" -- which is to say that an author will, by virtue of the enormity of the subject, inevitably end up devoting more effort to tedious elaborations on the necessary facts and background, than towards readability or an overall coherence and flow, which itself can be detrimental if too short on those same facts and background. But I can say with honesty that this book falls into neither trap: it really is very readable and, at the same time, huge in its informativeness. Beyond the book's simple value as a history of Europe, the ideas that it explores in its periphery -- ranging from fashion to economics, from art to philosophy --- in order to illuminate some topic are simply fantastic and add a new dimension to the endeavour. Judt's focus, to be clear, is always distinctly on Europe, but the way he, for instance, stops to explore the nuances of the intellectual scene that preceded some political action or the films of a particular era and what their themes and tones reflected of the general mood, shade in issues and events that would have otherwise be near uselessly abstract to one who hasn't lived through them (like myself). I've always personally found the lack of these qualities in other history books to be oddly impractical and ultimately a disservice to those who truly want to understand something. Read more ›
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5.0 out of 5 stars An Exemplary History Dec 24 2005
For some reason the modern history of Europe doesn't seem to catch the attention of many writers so I was glad when I saw this book. Most of what I know about Europe in this century revolves around either of the two world wars. I think Judt does a great job of filling in the blanks. I especially like that this history concerns all of Europe - so many books focus on France or Germany or England and leave out the likes of Czechoslovakia or other `lesser' countries. The book is long and not always easy reading as would be expected with a book of this breadth. Judt does an admirable job with such a complex and detailed topic. I think that the history of Europe as a block is just beginning and this is a great foundation to understanding how they got where they are and where they are going.
Another great read is by Giorgio Kostantinos ' The Quest '
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5.0 out of 5 stars Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 May 23 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The book is very enlightening, giving details from as many different angles as possible. This might be a little difficult to follow, but read correctly, it gives you several different 'frames' that make up the context as a whole. The result is a better comprehension of the history of that time with the possibility of comparing it to Europe and eastern Europe today.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Dec 22 2010
Deeply interesting history of Europe post-Hitler. As many academics have, in fact, lived this history, it is often difficult for younger people to learn about the events that shaped Europe (and the world in general) into what it is now.
Some interesting and controversial opinions are voiced, but it certainly is an epic work that has been very, very thoroughly researched.
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