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Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 Paperback – September 5, 2006

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Editorial Reviews Review

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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 960 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (September 5, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143037757
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143037750
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (174 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9,886 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Tony Judt was born in London in 1948. He was educated at King's College, Cambridge and the École Normale Supérieure, Paris, and has taught at Cambridge, Oxford, Berkeley and New York University, where he is currently the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of European Studies and Director of the Remarque Institute, which is dedicated to the study of Europe and which he founded in 1995. The author or editor of twelve books, he is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement, The New Republic, The New York Times and many other journals in Europe and the US. Professor Judt is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a Permanent Fellow of the Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen (Vienna). He is the author of "Reappraisals: Reflections On The Forgotten Twentieth Century"" and Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945," which was one of the New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of 2005, the winner of the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Book Award, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

174 of 190 people found the following review helpful By R. Albin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 8, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is, in many respects, an outstanding book. Judt accomplishes the daunting job of providing a solid narrative overview of European history (excluding Russia/Soviet Union)from the end of WWII to the present. Accompanying the narrative is a great deal of astute analysis, both of major trends and of specific episodes. The book is divided into 4 major periods; the immediate post-war era of reconstruction and the onset of the Cold War, the great boom of the 50s and 60s with its major demographic, social, and economic changes, the recessional period of the 70s and 80s, and the most recent period after the fall of the Soviet Union. The major theme is a multi-generational effort to build a Europe that avoids the mistakes that led to the catastrophes of the WWI-WWII period. Judt provides a guardedly positive view of European success. The factors that led to the catastrophe of the first half of the 20th century were strong nationalism and what might be called neo-mercantilism, authoritarian/totalitarian states, powerful ideologies (particularly Marxism), and great internal social discord. Judt sees modern Europe, with democratic and pacific states, its emphasis on economic integration, and social welfare systems aimed at guaranteeing a minimum amount of social amity, as largely escaping the problems that led to WWI and WWII.

Judt deals very well with the major events (and often their social consequences) that propelled Europe along this pathway. The crucial role of the US, and in an ironic way, of the Soviet Union, helped to rescue Western Europe from post-WWII devastation and provided an international framework that demanded western european cooperation.
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96 of 103 people found the following review helpful By Originaljs on January 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent survey book for the general reader that pulls together the disparate developments in European history since the end of WWII. The result is a cohesive overview I have not found elsewhere, especially consideration of the turmoil in the Eastern bloc and the practical political problems.

I disagree with several criticisms levelled at the book in the following particulars. First, it is claimed that the book offers nothing new. That is true in the sense that what is reported it not new; however such an excellent overview is new.

Second, there are complaints about the lack of footnotes. On this I again say the book is an overview and not directed at specialists. Inclusion of anything approaching an academically adequate footnoting would have expanded the work to two or more volumes.

Third, it is claimed there are errors. Well, sure there are. Judt is writing about developments in 40+ nations which ranged from advanced to backward. However, given the volume of factual matter, there appear to be few errors.

Fourth, it is claimed that the book is too long. I disagree and believe that Judt did an excellent of job of editing down to get the book to the size it is. A reader who is not interested in some parts can skip them.

This is not a work for specialists who will likely criticize it as a popularization as they proceed to write their dry tomes no one but other specialists will ever read.

I grew up in the forties and fifties and spent most of 1961 to 1965 in West Germany in the military and as a foreigh exchange student. It was a delight to read Judt's research about those years and those that followed.

Great Book!
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63 of 73 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAME on October 15, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This book is likely to be the textbook for some years to come on Postwar European development. It has been most widely and favorably reviewed. Among the points of praise" Its excellent Eastern European country- by - country survey of the collapse of Communism. Its full presentation of the Marshall Plan in putting a devastated continent back on its feet. Its tracing of the European Union idea which has led to the present amalgam of four- hundred and fifty million European economic citizens, the greatest internal market in the world. Its presentation of the political rivalries within the Union, especially an excellent survey of British - French relations. The book has been faulted for claiming that the Soviet collapse came about for internal reasons primarily, and not because of Reagan-American Administration Star- Wars pressure.

Anthony Gottlieb has suggested in the ' New York Times' that the book tends to somewhat downplay the clouds hanging over the European future i.e. the demographic dearth,the rapid aging of the population, the relatively high - unemployment.

The work is a primarily positive look at present European development, especially the rapid growth and amalgamation of the past twenty years since the fall of the Soviet Empire.
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43 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on September 16, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Postwar - A history of Europe since 1945" by Tony Judt is the best book I have read on the subject. Its perspective on events since 1989 up to 2005 is remarkably good.

Only two generations have passed since World War 2, and the risk with a book about this period is that its conclusions and themes may prove to be foolish in the fullness of time. One is reminded of Mao's response to a question about the consequences of the French Revolution, "It is too soon to tell."

We can probably be reasonably sure that the history of Europe from the collapse of the Ottoman and Habsburg Empires plus the Soviet upheavals after WW1 to the final territorial and ethnic spasm in the Balkans in the 1990s can probably be written with some certainty, although we still lack access to original source documents for the Soviet role over that period.

All books dealing with post-war European history suffer from the fact that limited archival material from the Soviet Union has been available for study. Historians are forced to rely on sporadic Soviet documents and speeches and the assessments of western diplomats and analysts to interpret Soviet thinking and intentions.

The result is that this book (and others) views the history of the Communist world with Western eyes and Western mindsets. We are denied access to the thoughts, fears and hopes of communist politicians and dissidents and their influence on history. Hopefully, one day, more archival and other documents will become available to historians and a more balanced history will emerge over time.

If I may give another analogy: at present historians writing of the Communist world are peering through the windows of a house trying to understand the lives of the family living there.
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