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The Parliament of Man: The Past, Present and Future of the United Nations [Paperback]

Paul Kennedy
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

26 July 2007

Paul Kennedy's The Parliament of Man: The United Nations and the Quest for World Government is the extraordinary story of the UN - its creation, the threats it has faced, and the possibilities it holds for the future.

Can the world be governed by agreement rather than conflict? In 1945 the world's most powerful nation states came together to 'save succeeding generations from the scourge of war and reaffirm faith in the fundamental human rights'. Over sixty years later, the United Nations still doggedly pursues that mandate.

Paul Kennedy's The Parliament of Man is a timely history that examines the roots and functions of this unique organization, casts an objective eye on its past effectiveness and assesses whether it will meet the challenges of our present world - from supplying aid during humanitarian crises to combating climate change.

Ultimately he shows why, despite its fallibility and its foibles, the UN remains utterly indispensable to our future.

'Wonderful ... a highly readable and sophisticated account'

'Extraordinary ... a retelling of the United Nations story to remind us why it remains a necessary organisation'
  The New York Times

'A sweeping historical tour ... this is a necessary book'
  Financial Times

  New Statesman

'Appealing ... Accessible ... never loses sight of the larger truth'
  Tony Judt, New York Review of Books

Paul Kennedy is a Professor of History at Yale University. He took his doctorate in Oxford and began work shortly afterwards for the first great historian of the Second World War, Sir Basil Liddell Hart. Kennedy is the author or editor of nineteen books, including The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, which has been translated into over twenty languages, Preparing for the Twenty-First Century, The Parliament of Man and the now classic Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (26 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140285873
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140285871
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 152,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


'a comprehensive and accessible introduction to the history, tasks and
dilemmas of the United Nations.' -- Tony Judt, New York Review of Books

About the Author

Paul Kennedy is a Professor of History at Yale University. His books include The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers and Preparing for the Twenty-First Century. He was born and brought up in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The idea of a universal association of humankind goes back hundreds if not thousands of years. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moving forward, looking back 27 Jun 2006
Analyzing almost sixty years of United Nations history is, to say the least, an ambitious undertaking. Kennedy has tackled the challenge admirably producing a substantive and very readable account of the "evolution of the many UNs since 1945". His previous participation in the review and reform process of the UN system adds to his qualifications. This study is an excellent entry for anybody interested in learning more about this unique institution, its origins, growth and progress into one of the most complex international organizations.

Kennedy anchors his analysis firmly in the Charter of the United Nations, negotiated toward the end of World War II by the "Big Three" (US, Britain and USSR). He often refers back to these early days to remind the reader of the historical context of the UN and the challenges that ensued from these beginnings. The reader is reminded that only 50 states signed the Charter back in 1945, while the UN today has 191 members. Following chapter 1, which provides an overview of the origins of the UN, Kennedy groups the historical analysis by the major themes, reflecting the core responsibilities of the UN bodies, such as security, peace and war; the social and economic spheres; international human rights and finally global governance, democratization and civil society. It is in this context that Kennedy refers to the "many UNs. In the final part the author summarizes current trends in the reform debates of the UN and includes recommendations for future development.

Taking the theme approach engages the reader more easily in the historical perspective on the UN. Kennedy provides many examples of successes and failures in the areas of peacekeeping (or making) and in the social, economic and human rights spheres. He does not shy away from criticism.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good overview 1 Aug 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Kennedy's book gives a systematic insight into the history, purpose and future of the United Nations. He explains both the bold ideas behind the "world parliament" but also does not hold back when explaining its shortcomings, bumpy history, failed attempts at conflict intervention and current apparently insurmountable issues.

The book is a good introduction to anyone interested in the idea of a world government and our first attempts to create the same.
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2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A review of the UN's performance 2 Jan 2008
By Mr X
This book is about the UN and is really a fairly detailed assessment of its successes and failings over the course of the last 60 years. The successes etc are illustrated by reverence to examples and so the book is not a history of the UN but focuses on specific incidents.

Overall it is quite interesting but I do think it assumes a certain amount of background knowledge regarding the incidents refers to as there is often only a brief description of those incidents. I liked the author's use of different chapters to explain different themes. i.e there was a chapter on human rights, another on the North/South economic divide and how the UN approaches problems stemming from that etc.

The book is good but I think Mr Kennedy's other books are better .....the Rise and Fall of the Great Powers for example.
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars good 6 Dec 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars helpful book 30 Jun 2012
By elias - Published on
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
The first part is a little boring for an international relations student, as it provides basic info on the UN and the world context in which it was created. But you know nothing or very little about this matters then it's certainly interesting. The second part of the book is made up of 7 or 8 chapters, each chapter focuses on a particular subject relevant to the UN. For instance there's one focused on the security council, another one focuses on the role of NGO's, the relationship between breton woods institutions and the NU, etc.
Each chapter is very enlightening, the author rises interesting questions about the way the UN works and its decision making processes, the author questions the legitimacy of the security council while describing very clearly the goals achieved and the challenges that remain for the UN.
Its a great book.
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