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Good Choice for a European Overview
on August 5, 2006
The best thing to be said about Hitchcock's book is probably the worst as well: it is perfectly suited to be an entertaining and accessible textbook for a modern European history class. On the one hand, this means that the book is highly informative and hits on the major issues of high politics in postwar Europe. Hitchcock is very adept at providing enough background to allow readers to fully appreciate the stories he tells, many of which are probably unknown to most. Reading the story of Labor's postwar victory in Britain, or the fairly unheard-of July 1953 uprising in Berlin turns out to be novel and entertaining.
Yet, the book also suffers from some classic schoolbook problems. Hitchcock occasionally gets drowned in reciting facts and figures, which greatly slows the book's fast start. And as the previous reviewer said, the scope of the book is not wide, sticking to the obvious countries and people for the most part. The final chapter on the EU is truly textbook-like, bogged down with bolded terms, long definitions, and slightly out of date. For all the momentum the book builds, it ends with a disappointing whimper that sours the whole experience.
The bottom line is that the book is good, but skippable. For those with a interest in recent European history, it will serve as an excellent and interesting starting point. For those well-steeped in the story of the Continent, it is probably of little use, though the occasional story may provide some novelty.