- Paperback: 752 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; New Ed edition (December 1, 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140265619
- ISBN-13: 978-0140265613
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 1.3 x 7.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #486,271 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Penguin History of Europe New Ed Edition
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About the Author
J. M. ROBERTS was a Fellow and Tutor of Oxford University, now retired. His numerous publications include Europe 1880-1945 and The Paris Commune from the Right. In 1985, BBC2 transmitted the series The Triumph of the West, which he wrote and presented.
Top customer reviews
Also, I've read complaints about the author's coverage of Poland, and I have to add that the short section on the disintegration of Yugoslavia leaves a lot to be desired. Roberts' judgement here has no substance, and some of his explanations (like why Serbs bombed Dubrovnik) are very shallow. Still, I wouldn't extrapolate this to the other parts of the book, I think saying that he was not particularly interested in the East is enough. In my modest judgment this has something to do with the IMPORTANCE of the countries in question for the history of Europe.
These setbacks aside, I can't think of a better way of writing history. Lucid, concise, critical, synthetic, and, not the least important, incredibly literate.
For those who have never read Roberts, here's a sentence typical of his writing:
Furthermore, many of the Spanish were sincerely horrified at such practices as the Aztec human sacrifices (however hard it may be for us to understand why men easy with the idea of burning Christian heretics should have been so offended).
What you will find, however, is a very readable analysis of the history of Europe. When treating The French Revolution, for example, he does a fabulous job at stepping away from traditional Anglo biases on the topic, explain the basic contour of what happened, and then explaining the far reaching implications. This is Roberts' special talent and it makes the book worthwhile. I found myself able to gain fresh perspective in various areas.
How does it stack up to Norman Davies? I quit Davies early on, because I didn't find it was worth the payoff. A lot more words, but not really a lot more learning. Earlier Historians of the mid-20th century, such as William H. McNeil show a now noticeably strong bias toward modernism and secularist assumptions, and so I have found myself going back to old histories before the second world war in order to find a traditional history of Europe. Roberts seems to be fairly typical of the way contemporary popular historians write: a great deal of summary. Try for example spending some time in Guizot's History of France if you want to read first class history the way it used to be written.
Roberts also does very well in his avoidance of overt bias. He clearly leaned favorably toward the French Revolution for example, but not so much so that he became an apologist. He manages to tell the story of the Russian Revolution reasonably straight down the middle as well neither lionizing or demonizing it. Roberts thinks and talks in strategic terms. His perspective is secular but not secularist. It's a solid book, even if it's not exactly a History of Europe.