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Small Wars, Faraway Places: Global Insurrection and the Making of the Modern World, 1945-1965 [Kindle Edition]

Michael Burleigh
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)

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Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

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Book Description

A sweeping history of the Cold War’s many “hot” wars born in the last gasps of empire

The Cold War reigns in popular imagination as a period of tension between the two post-World War II superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, without direct conflict. Drawing from new archival research, prize-winning historian Michael Burleigh gives new meaning to the seminal decades of 1945 to 1965 by examining the many, largely forgotten, “hot” wars fought around the world. As once-great Western colonial empires collapsed, counter-insurgencies campaigns raged in the Philippines, the Congo, Iran, and other faraway places. Dozens of new nations struggled into existence, the legacies of which are still felt today. Placing these vicious struggles alongside the period-defining United States and Soviet standoffs in Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba, Burleigh swerves from Algeria to Kenya, to Vietnam and Kashmir, interspersing top-level diplomatic negotiations with portraits of the charismatic local leaders. The result is a dazzling work of history, a searing analysis of the legacy of imperialism and a reminder of just how the United States became the world’s great enforcer.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

WWII’s most important geopolitical result—the succession of Europe by the U.S. in global preeminence—was revealed in phases over the immediate postwar period. Surveyed in this digestible history, the process unfolded in one conventional war (Korea) and a series of insurgency-style wars that Burleigh recounts. These were conflicts in Indochina, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaya, India, the Middle East, Algeria, Kenya, Congo, and Cuba. For each one, Burleigh outlines the local balances of power, sketches pithy summaries of the pertinent political and military leaders, and narrates courses of events, some resulting in rebels’ victories, others not. Strife that drew in the U.S., such as in the Middle East, Korea, and Vietnam, produces Burleigh’s best analysis of how America became involved, which shows how the perceived requirements of being a world power overwhelmed realistic assessment of the local situation. Burleigh cites Vietnam and Cuba as cases in which American leaders stumbled because they tended to dismiss the nationalism underneath the insurgents’ communism. Agilely written, confidently argued, this a fine contribution to Cold War history. --Gilbert Taylor


“A brilliant book.”—Ben Macintyre, The Times (London)
“A bold, blunt, and sometimes beautiful defense of morality in history . . . . Mr. Burleigh poses the moral questions to the people that mattered at the great turning points of a vast war.”—Timothy Snyder, The Wall Street Journal 

“Chilling. . . . A deeply researched and vividly written book.”—The Cleveland Plain Dealer 

“This is a superb work of scholarship with fresh insights on nearly every page that will likely leave the reader asking hard and troubling questions long after finishing it. . . . An exceptionally important book.”—The Christian Science Monitor

“Burleigh has written a powerful, gripping book that will be essential reading for an understanding of World War II. It is worthy of anyone’s attention who is interested in that war.”—The Washington Times

“Michael Burleigh has long been one of our foremost writers on the importance of ethics in history, and in this deeply researched, closely argued and well-written analysis of the moral issues thrown up by the Second World War he has reached the zenith of his career.”—Andrew Roberts, National Review 
“An ambitious cultural history… [Burleigh] seamlessly synthesizes vast amounts of historical material and provides often-riveting accounts of terrorist atrocities and the literary and political environments where they took place.”—The New York Times Book Review
“Brilliant…. Tremendously erudite and enlightening.”—The New York Observer
“Takes everybody from Fenians and anarchists to the Red Brigades and al-Qaeda, and is written with characteristically biting flair.”—Dominic Sandbrook, Daily Telegraph (Books of the Year)
“An essential, imperative read…. Panoramic in its scope… There’s a hint of Edward Gibbon about Burleigh.”—The New Criterion
“Burleigh does a marvelous job profiling colorful characters while still managing to convey the historical importance of their ideas.”—Mark Lilla, The New York Times
“Well-informed and refreshingly provocative, Earthly Powers should be required reading for anyone who understands that religion and politics, even when separate, can never be divorced.”—Chicago Tribune

“This book [is] excellent…. A vast range of material is handled in a deft, readable way.”—The Economist
“A fascinating chronicle.”—The Wall Street Journal
“One of the most important books of the decade.”—The Observer
“Beautifully written, fearlessly outspoken, full of superb portraits of heroes and monsters… an exuberant tour-de-force.”—Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard
“Wonderful…. Trenchant…. Burleigh’s sharp judgments, which skewer many modern cultural ‘icons; bring alive his extensive research.”—Financial Times
“A powerful indictment of our uneasy times.”—JG Ballard, The Observer (London)

Product Details

  • File Size: 4853 KB
  • Print Length: 607 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0230752322
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (September 12, 2013)
  • Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00C1N5W20
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #268,572 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars strategic history of a fascinating period December 18, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
"Small Wars in Faraway Places" is a fascinating account of the strategy and high level politics of several fascinating points in history. For covering such a great amount of history in one book it does very well. The anecdotes about nearly every major figure through out those 20 years are fascinating in their elaborate detail and glimpse into their personalities. Mr. Burleigh gives us his opinion of them. The only one of which he seems to think positively is Eisenhower. His diatribe against JFK goes on for pages.

This is a book of the political strategy of the highest leaders and how their personalities influenced their decisions. The "Epilogue Legacies" of the deaths of several of the major figures is fascinating and at times revealing.

Mr. Burleigh reveals his bias, concluding by writing:

"If this book has achieved no other purpose, I hope it has illuminated the fact that the perceived imperatives of world power shaped the foreign policy of the USA quite as much as they did its European imperialist predecessors. The central contradiction addressed by this book has not been between Americans ideals and practice, but the fact that, unlike the British, French, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese empires, the USA profited little and lost much from its misconceived adoption of liberal imperialism. For the Europeans it was an alibi adopted to prolong their imperial delusions; the best and brightest of the American liberal establishment were confident they could do it better, and in that hubris lay their own and their nation's tragedy."

The book is marred by run on sentences, lack of clear antecedents for pronouns, bad grammar and rather vague and unusual phrasing and word choices. I would hope that the editors would insist on a grammar oriented editor and put out an improved text.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Huge topic-maybe too much so! May 25, 2013
By suzie
Format:Kindle Edition
A fine book with some interesting facts and anecdotes .
However,because of the time covered,maybe slightly skimpy in places.
I liked it, though and would recommend to readers looking for a general insight into the period and who can then refer to the really extensive Bibliography for further reading.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Small Wars, Faraway Places January 27, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Michael Burleigh's book covers the reaction of the 'big powers' (US, USSR, Great Britain primarily) to the post war world they inherited at the end of World War II. The period covered (1945-1965) covers well known crises including those in Korea, Greece, Pakistan, Algeria, Hungary, Kenya, Cuba and, of course, Vietnam. His emphasis is on the missteps, bungling and hubris of these big powers, especially the U.S., in dealing with these crises. It makes for interesting and depressing reading. Many of the crises in the book have been presented and discussed in other books in greater detail (e.g., David Halberstam and his work on the Vietnam War, 'The Best and the Brightest') but the value of Burleigh's book is that it discusses these events in one volume with incisive commentary and insight. I particularly liked his take on the personalities of the various players who were active during this period (Presidents, generals, etc.). I didn't necessarily agree with some of Burleigh's comments which sometimes can seem to read as too facile but overall I found the book interesting and very informative. The book is very well written and worth looking at. It is depressing that the rationale for the U.S. in involving itself in various overseas adventures as reported in Burleigh's book hasn't changed much since 1965
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So Close, Yet , So Far November 10, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I like Michael Burleigh, no doubt. Small Wars started out exciting! Promising to inform the reader some unknown , nefarious details how the West intervened in faraway places for their own benefit ? The time period is limited to between 1945 end of WW2 and 1965 beginning of Vietnam War. Eighteen chapters, each dealing with a different situation, either West vs Communism or Western colony seeking independence. I was quite familiar with Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, familiar with the arms race, Algeria, India and Pakistan, Egypt and Israel . A few we're new to me like Kenya, Philippines and Malaya independence wars ?
For each situation volumes have been written about, I'm sure? Burleigh attempts to squeeze as many details as he can in about 40 pages and leaves some details out of what I was quite familiar with like Cuba, Korea and Vietnam? I guess there is nothing wrong with that ? I can be thankful for the details in the events I was not ?
However, the amount of details crammed into a 40 page is overwhelming and can be hard to follow ? He writes about a few hundred major players and gets into personality traits. So one must be prepared to slow down in places, no doubt?
Burleigh it seems presents what I felt was an anti-West to objective perspective ? Why not, it's about time!
In summary, I enjoyed reading Small Wars, Faraway Places. One can skim what one is familiar with and slow down considerably with what is new ? It does not read like a novel and tries to shrink whole books, succinctly into 40 pages which perhaps seems to brief for a real history book ?
Thank you Michael for writing such an extraordinary book!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Few reputations are spared in this dyspeptic but witty account of the early Cold War - not Mao, not JFK, not the postwar French and British governments. The author details how World War II bankrupted the world's colonial empires, who had already been facing agitation for independence, and how the US assisted their feeble illusions that they could retain their overseas possessions. Further, the development of the "domino theory" gave the US another excuse to conclude colonialism was the lesser of two evils. This is not to suggest the author has a leftist slant, because the Communist insurrections are generally chastised no less wholeheartedly. A number of the small wars have been all but forgotten and this is a useful attempt to place all of them, significant or otherwise, into an overall context. Most of the pieces work; one or two, such as the chapter on Malaya, weren't quite as compelling. The narrative ends with the Kennedy assassination and the rise of LBJ, who comes across as a figure from Greek tragedy.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
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This is a very readable book that does a fine job of showing how post-World War II decolonization and the Cold War reinforced each other. Read more
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Published 1 month ago by E. OBrien
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Published 1 month ago by John Rakestraw
3.0 out of 5 stars This book is a hard read. There is a ...
This book is a hard read. There is a lot of info that has to be digested in order to fully understand what the author is trying to get across. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Fran
5.0 out of 5 stars Perfect.
Published 2 months ago by Chris Hopkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating take on 20th Century history! JFK idolaters beware!
A more objective perspective on the JFK Presidency that you will not find at the 6th floor museum comes from British historian Michael Burleigh. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Christopher Kelly
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Interesting book, but in his predictably pretentious format.
Published 4 months ago by peter brennan
1.0 out of 5 stars Like a bad textbook (that may be redundant)
Half the time you feel like the narrative haphazardly cuts corners, and the other half of the time you feel like you're desperate for coffee or espresso. Read more
Published 10 months ago by J. LAWSON
5.0 out of 5 stars Troubling Times!
An occasionally riveting account of western miscalculations and misadventures in countries usually ignored by diplomatic and military thinkers. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Bil Banks
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Review of the Period, but....
I learned a number of things about the conflicts he covers, but was disappointed by his flippant and facile treatment of some players and occasional errors such as in his... Read more
Published 12 months ago by David E. Wilson
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More About the Author

Michael Burleigh is the author of Blood and Rage, Earthly Powers, Sacred Causes, and The Third Reich, for which he was awarded the Samuel Johnson Prize.

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