Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ Free Shipping
Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 Paperback – September 5, 2006
|New from||Used from|
The Amazon Book Review
Book recommendations, author interviews, editors' picks, and more. Read it now
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Frequently bought together
More items to explore
"Remarkable... The writing is vivid; the coverage-of little countries as well as of great ones-is virtually superhuman; and above all, the book is smart. Every page contains unexpected data, or a fresh observation, or a familar observation freshly turned." —Louis Menand, The New Yorker
"Impressive . . . Mr. Judt writes with enormous authority."—The Wall Street Journal
"Magisterial . . . It is, without a doubt, the most comprehensive, authoritative, and yes, readable postwar history." —The Boston Globe
"Brave and remakable." — The Washington Post
"Brilliant . . . A book that has the pace of a thriller and the scope of an encyclopedia . . . A very considerable achievement." —The New York Review of Books
"Not likely to be surpassed for many years. . . . This is history writing at its best." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)
About the Author
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
When the book came out ~2005/06, there was a lot of talk about the success of the EU 60 years after WW2:
1. The rapid expansion of the European Union: 10 countries, mainly from the former Soviet bloc, joined in 2004 and it seemed the spread of liberal democracy and reform was on the rise
2. Turkey was in the process of increasing civilian control over its army, liberalizing its justice system, abolishing the death penalty, etc. in a bid to join the EU
More than a decade since the book was published, the tide appears to have turned, and the EU is facing more headwinds and uncertainty. But Tony Judt's superb account of Europe after 1945 is still the best book around to help make sense of what's happened in Europe after WW2. At almost 800 pages and packed with facts and figures, it's definitely an intense book. But Judt's simple yet elegant prose and crisp writing keeps the pages turning. Some of his statistics will boggle the mind (only one hospital in liberated Warsaw to treat 90,000 people; 87,000 women raped in Vienna in 3 weeks by the red army)
Judt writes that the war in Europe did not really end in 1945. More than 36 million Europeans died between 39 and 45 because of the war. Many more millions were displaced from their homes, villages and cities by Hitler and Stalin. Even after Germany's defeat, the continent continued to be bloodied with violent retribution, purges and killings in places like Greece and Yugoslavia. Not only does the war not end by 45, but neither does the active persecution of Jews, including many murdered by Polish pogroms. Moreover, Judt believes that many of the other offenders such as Austria get away lightly, leaving Germany to bear the brunt of the blame for WW2. Judt brings attention to the phenomenon of "Waldheimer's disease" -- the inability to recollect one's actions during WW2, named after Kurt Waldheim, who went on to serve as the PM of Austria.
Often overlooked, especially in Continental Europe, is the significance of the Marshall Plan - a $200 billion "investment" on Western Europe to help restore its infrastructure, housing, etc. Judt goes on to write that all this helped Europe create economic and public policy models that have now become the envy of the world, such as a robust social safely net, affordable healthcare, etc. On the flip side, the aging population, low birth rates, rampant immigration, the unsustainable welfare models, etc. are noted as serious challenges.
Judt has no sacred cows and spares no one. For instance, he disabuses the reader of the notion that America singlehandedly defeated communism. In fact, the best parts of the book are Judt's country-by-country blow-by-blow account of how communism was actually defeated. No punches are held back as he describes postwar Britain as a dirty, cold and bankrupt land, including a complete takedown of PM Anthony Eden and co. for the Suez affair.
One of the key takeaways from Postwar is that despite the human devastation and the destruction caused by WWII, it's remarkable that Western Europe has managed to rebound and exist peacefully, developing institutions and policies that ensure that such history never repeats itself and hateful ideologies do not manifest in large-scale violence.
Top international reviews
Judt sometimes writes difficult sentences and has a habit of using unusual words so that frequent references to a dictionary are required. A more annoying habit is the insertion of French phrases. Frustrating to non French speakers.
These are my only criticisms. The reader gains insight into how the modern world developed as well as the idea that we take much for granted. The Europe of today is truly miraculous when seen from the perspective of the devastation in 1945.
What most interests me however is how this book covers certain key areas of European development which I have not previously had the opportunity of considering in such depth.
The extent of the devastation of almost all Europe and the necessary reconstruction, apparently accomplished with amazing speed after the war, and the enormous importance of cleverly designed Marshall Aid in achieving this;
The development of the Iron Curtain, the rapidly changing perceptions by the rest of the world of Stalin's intentions and activities, and in particular how this was experienced by the eastern European countries themselves. I had mostly been used to considering this from a western perspective.
The development of the Common Market, mostly at the instigation of the French, who just as they had after the First World War, wanted to protect themselves, but this time the muscle and strength was always and increasingly provided by Germany.
Prior to reading this book I didn't really understand quite how the EEC had worked, its parameters, its purpose and limitations.
Judt's views on later events were less revelatory to me because I had been there at the time, but his perspectives are always interesting.
Judt takes great care to consider the experience of many different countries, and as he does so I learned an enormous amount about the differences between say the Czech, the Polish, the Yugoslavian experience of being communist.
His epilogue is a consideration of the experience of the Jews after the war and I found this too especially valuable, and although he does not discuss the state of Israel, Judt helped me understand why the establishment of the Israeli state was so important.
Having not yet completed reading the book, I can't comment on the 1960s-2000s, but if Judt's description of the postwar and early cold war years are any indication, I will not be disappointed. This is a very personal history, so if you like a more detached writing style, then perhaps you may not like this book. Tony Judt explicitly states that this book contains many of his own bias and interpretations of events. I find that this adds considerably to the text and makes it eminently readable. I also think that since Tony Judt has lived on both sides of the Pond, it gives him a unique ability to write from both a European and an American perspective that will find wide appeal in the English speaking world. This book is for all those who want to understand the origins of the European Union, the history of the European Cold War and the love-hate relationship that exists between Europe and the USA, despite the fact that Europe and the USA are inextricably bound to each other and could quite be each others' salvation in the possible coming conflicts with Asia and a resurgent Russia.
My one caveat is that the print is rather small. Using varifocal glasses I have to position the book very precisely to read it easily which is tiring.
However, the paperback edition published by Vintage has the smallest fontsize I have ever seen in a book. So unless you have some sort of superhuman vision, just buy any other edition with a readable fontsize.