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Picking Up the Reins Hardcover – April 2, 2009

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Editorial Reviews


From Kirkus Reviews
Journalist and historian Moss (Nineteen Weeks: America, Britain, and the Fateful Summer of 1940, 2003, etc.) examines the years 1946-49, when the United States assumed the role of world leader. The end of World War II brought about many significant questions. Would Britain remain a world power? Would the Russians, America's uneasy wartime ally, remain friendly? Would Europe, devastated in nearly every way, simply go belly up? Would Germany revert to its warlike ways? Would America return to its traditional isolationism? We know now that the answer to all these questions was a resounding "no," but at the time the contours of any new world order remained unclear. Readers deeply interested in the period should look elsewhere for detail, but Moss's nutshell version of the creation of the postwar world includes all the major events and cites all the crucial players. Though he alludes to other global episodes that played a role-Mao's assumption of power in China, the Soviet acquisition of the nuclear bomb, the fighting in Palestine between Arabs and Jews-the author focuses on Europe and the transfer of power from Britain to the United States. Moss offers a close-up view of the ravaged British economy, the war weariness of the people and the initial reluctance, then resignation, with which Britain, loath to think itself so weak, passed the baton to the Americans. Against the backdrop of the nascent Cold War, through the Marshall Plan and NATO and out of motives both humanitarian and self-interested, America inserted itself into European affairs with characteristic enthusiasm and cultural insensitivity. Moss adroitly conveys the mixture of relief, resentment, awe and dismay that this shift engendered, noting that while U.S. military, cultural and economic dominance abides, the mantle of global leadership still rests uneasily on American shoulders.A handy guide to the creation of a world order that remains, in many respects, undisturbed.

Praise for Norman Moss's Nineteen Weeks:
"A gripping account." -The Washington Post

"A terrific history of a little understood moment."-The New Republic

About the Author

Norman Moss is a writer, journalist and broadcaster, born in Britain and raised in New York. He has worked for Reuters and the Associated Press, and has been a foreign correspondent for an American radio news service. His previous books include "Nineteen Weeks: America, Britain and the Fateful Summer of 1940", "Men Who Play God: The Story of the Hydrogen Bomb and How the World Came to Live With It", and "Klaus Fuchs: The Man Who Stole the Atom Bomb". He is married and lives in London. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: The Overlook Press; First Edition edition (April 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590201027
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590201022
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,375,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Norman Gelb on December 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a lively, lucidly told account of one of the most significant transformational geopolitical developments of modern times. It clearly sketches how the nations of the western world emerged from the debris of the Second World War to forge a new alignment of power, with the United States supplanting Great Britain as the major world power, the nations of Europe beginning their historic trudge toward union, and wartime ally Russia morphing into a dangerous adversary. Spicing his narrative with telling anecdotes and touching all the bases, Moss sets the stage for today's geopolitical climate. He has made an admirable contribution to our understanding of how we got to where we are now.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a succinct little book on the post war decline of Britain's economic, diplomatic and military power and the concomitant emergence of the US as the dominant power in the "free world". It gave a fairly thorough account in only 256 pages. Moss described the economic problems of post-war Britain, which led it to withdraw from many of its world-wide military commitments. This withdrawal resulted in something of a "power vacuum" which the Soviets attempted to exploit to advance international Communism. The book also illustrates the difficulty Truman had focusing the American people and Congress on external affairs and extending US military power to cover those "gaps". The culmination of the book is its description of the passage and implementation of the "Marshall Plan" which was instrumental in the reconstruction of Europe and firmly cemented America's role as leader of the "free world" The writing was lively and consistently interesting with little tidbits and factoids scattered throughout to put the larger issues in perspective. I enjoyed it immensely!
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