The War Of The World: History's Age Of Hatred
- Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date:
- 29 March 2007
- General & World History
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A compelling work detailing the hatred in humanity as revealed by the wars of the twentieth century. This century was the most savage in history and the historian Niall Ferguson reveals the mix of economic circumstances,ending of empires and racial stereotypes which contributed to this poisonous outcome by mankind. He puts forward the proposition that the century ended -not with the triumph of the West but with its decline. Despite the length of the book it was hard to put down and we are left with the warning that these events could happen again.
A comprehensive review of the 20th century. His thesis is interesting and his case for it does not really establish itself to the final pages of the book. However his history of the 20th century is in depth and his transition from one topic to the next is quite engaging. Worth the read, especially for any minor history buffs.
This is a very good book indeed. I like the way that he writes, and clearly builds up the entire momentum of events leading up to World War I and World War II. The book has clearly been researched very well indeed, and there are new perspectives to be found almost at every turn of the book.This is a book that clearly has to be digested well, and has to be read slowly. It is heavy going, and you cannot decide to charge through the book in one week. It took me some time to get through it, and I will probably come back to the book again.I cannot, however, agree with the blurb that it is a history of mankind's century of hate. While the last century may well be one that has seen the most hatred in all of man's history, the book focusses on the two major events - the world wars. It does not cover India's Partition, or the period of Hindu-Muslim strife that has followed, or other such events that have criss-crossed the world. The end, where he draws inspiration from HG Wells book "The War of the Worlds", is masterful. It is a reminder to me, to buy that book as well..
I'd like to give this a 4.25.<i>The War of the World</i> is a massive undertaking, Ferguson's attempt to determine why the twentieth century was both the world's bloodiest even though it fostered the most advances in quality of life. In an enormous synthesis of hundreds of scholarly works and primary sources, Ferguson takes his reader on a grand tour of the earth from before the First World War and takes it to 9/11. The themes he deduces from his analysis of all this material can be simmered down to two. (1) The amazing, breakneck-paced advances in the technological and business world, the market, which fostered better health, longevity, and the like also created a world where business interests and bloated, powerful governments were needed to manage the globe-encircling economies - in short, technology and bureaucracy engendered the rise of totalitarianism, sort of a mechanized absolutism that Louis XIV or Catherine the Great could only dream of. (2) The breakdown of multi-ethnic empires, which, Ferguson contends, tended to promote peace between ethnic minorities, coupled with the concomitant economic disruptions during their break-ups led to ethnic violence and genocide. Usually this was preceded by significant intermarriage between members of ethnic groups (often majority-minority pairings) and social integration into the larger society.You put these two things together and you get volatility - to say the least. What is the result of this? The West is losing to the East - and by East he means specifically China, Japan, and the Middle East, but mainly China. The subtitle to the American edition is "Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West." He gets the point across that the West ain't what it used to be, but not as clear in proving, to me at least, that this means the East will win. Ferguson, who could be called a historian of empires, if anything, I'm sure sees similarities between nineteenth-century British subsidization of the US economy and twentieth-century subsidization of China's. This is a cause for concern. The decline of Western birthrates, the economic problems that will come upon an aging, declining Europe full of lazy socialists will lead to economic and then social anarchy. Ethnic violence (Europe is still fractured by ethnicity and now full of Muslims of all races and cultures) will likely ensue. What does this all mean? Who knows. Ferguson sees the twentieth-century as one big ongoing war, at least until 1953 and the end of the Korean Conflict (saying this wasn't really like the Cold War conflicts that followed). His assessment that the West really didn't win the Second World War is convincing - it's hard to say the good guys won and the bad guys lost when one of the "good guys" was Stalin. That and even the UK and US, in my opinion the two greatest and most benevolent nations (empires) in the history of the world, resorted to what could be called war crimes (Dresden, Tokyo, etc. - ask Curtis LeMay).But perhaps I am saying too much about this book. More generally: the content is wonderful; Ferguson's writing is clear, lucid, and engaging; new ways to look at things and intriguing bits of trivia pop up left and right. I recommend this book for any historian, especially those interested in the two named world wars. Some problems. Ferguson's thesis is a bit lost in all the fun, and perhaps unproven by the end of it all. His epilogue does not reiterate his introduction, but gives an incomplete history of the Cold War. Naturally, though he begrudgingly (and perhaps insultingly) mentions Thatcher (Ferguson is a Scot), he fails to mention Reagan and his impact on ending the Cold War. No biggie. He contends that the so-called Cold War was, in fact, nothing but inter-ethnic conflict under a different rubric as the European empires withdrew from their colonies. Unfortunately, he doesn't dwell on this enough to prove his point. His post-1989 examples too are given short shrift, and, lastly, he can't really place Islamic terrorism in his mold.To finish, the content footnotes (using *, †, and ‡) are neat and informative but the small-print, back of the book, "354 'marriage...' <i>This Book</i>" style endnotes is annoying. I hate this new-fangled style of notes that popular presses seem to be adopting. But what can I do, being a lowly history Ph.D. student?
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