four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
20-Jan-Feb-2006
By: 
Tony Judt
user_rating: 
0

A History of Europe Since 1945

A-PostwarEurope was a ghost in 1945. Over 30 million were dead, yet there were still not enough houses to shelter the survivors (Warsaw lost 90 percent of its homes). The war’s devastation stayed with Europe for a long time and left the continent divided into West and East. But, as historian Tony Judt argues, the Soviet bloc created the conditions for today’s European civilization. Now, a glimpse across the Atlantic shows an ever-widening European Union flush with capital and geopolitical influence, yet still struggling with social, economic, and cultural divisions. From the impact of the Marshall Plan to the specter of Turkey on the horizon, Judt delivers a comprehensive examination of the continent’s stunning rebound and a vision of what the future might hold.
Penguin. 964 pages. $39.95. ISBN: 1594200653

Foreign Affairs 5 of 5 Stars
"Nobody is more qualified than Judt to combine serious descriptive history with incisive, original political analysis, to cover both western and eastern Europe, and to pass stinging yet informed judgments on the behavior and evasions, the deeds and the failings, of his subjects. … This monumental work is a tour de force." Stanley Hoffmann

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 5 of 5 Stars
"It is, without a doubt, the most comprehensive, authoritative, and, yes, readable postwar history. It also gently recasts the history of postwar Europe outside America’s shadow without resorting to anti-Americanism." John Freeman

Independent (UK) 4.5 of 5 Stars
"A masterpiece of historical scholarship, Postwar gives us a view of Europe over the past 60 years in which east and west, culture and geopolitics are seamlessly interwoven as in reality they always have been. … The question now is not where Europe goes next but how long it can hold together in its present form." John Gray

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Judt is too impatient to see the cultural and political contributions of the radicalism of the late 1960s and early 1970s, perhaps because he came of age in this period. … Having to deal with postwar eugenics in Scandinavia as well as Salazar’s peculiar rule in Portugal is no easy feat, but Judt manages both to provide information and to make that information relevant to the larger story, of Europe’s re-emergence, prosperity and its current challenges." Michael Roth

Chronicle Higher Education 3.5 of 5 Stars
"It will strike American readers that Mr. Judt has also ‘decentered’ the United States itself in Postwar. … That gap [between Europe and America from the 1970s onward] is central to Mr. Judt’s debunking of a cherished (in Washington) notion that the United States was the major player in ending the cold war." Richard Byrne

Commentary Magazine 2 of 5 Stars
"The reader is carried along by the sweep of the narrative and the ubiquitous presence of an author who confidently questions everyone’s assumptions but his own. … More serious issues arise from Judt’s polemical purposes in writing this book." Daniel Johnson

Critical Summary

The unassuming, almost provocatively direct title belies an almost 1,000-page exhaustive survey of European history since the end of World War II. Yet this book isn’t meant just to look impressive on the bookshelf; Judt is an astute thinker and polished writer who brings extensive cultural knowledge about film, music, and literature to bear on his daunting subjects: the Holocaust, the Stalinized East, the tide-changing 1960s, the implosion of the Iron Curtain, the policies of the European Union, and the new European way of life. Some critics attribute his clear-headed approach to almost two decades in America, where he founded New York University’s Remarque Institute "to support and promote the study and discussion of Europe." Trans-Atlantic biases and assumptions aside, it’s clear that Judt has written the book on Europe, for the moment at least.