Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 Paperback – Sep 5 2006
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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 the Hardcover edition.
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 the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Frankly I found the earliest 3/4s of the book to be the most enlightening. At the end Judt tries to pull things together and make some judgements on what Europe is now and what direction it might be heading. He doesn't really address the huge challenges of the future; the likely Islamification and gentrification of the formerly dominant white races in European society. On the other hand, the challenges Europe has gone through to be reborn following the devastation of war upon war make it seem unwisely pessimistic to get all alarmed about the future. So perhaps Judt's view is the best after all.
This is a very long book and a very readable book. Honestly, it didn't really feel like work until the last 200 pages or so. By then, it wasn't hard to find the resolve to press on to the finish.
Some interesting and controversial opinions are voiced, but it certainly is an epic work that has been very, very thoroughly researched.
On the negative side, this is one of those authors that likes to write in $50 word imagery. It can be very distracting to feel you have to keep a dictionary/Google page constantly handy to look up what words mean. It is NOT written for the general public IMHO but if you don't mind being fairly constantly challenged with his English vocabulary and references, it is worth the read. It would have helped a great deal of this ebook had been one linked to a dictionary so that you could quickly double click a word/phrase and get back to the thought before you get lost. It did not offer that tool.
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