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on 30 May 1999
This is possibly the most interesting historical book around. Even those who are not interested in history will enjoy this book.
The massive scope of this work is impressive. The two areas that remain with me, years after reading this book are,
1. The further reinforcement of the notion of "Man's Inhumanity to Man". That man, when left to his own resources, without social restraint, will behave more beastly than any animal. I like to suppose that we can rise above that...but as this book shows, as societies have moved to be more democratic, ruled not by monarchies but by common man, we have become more barbaric.
2. The utter failure of the communist movement...the misguided beginnings, the continued mistakes, blunders...an elitist group of intellectuals who had no faith in the common man; just how non-communist the communist regime was...and this work was written before the demise of the communist world. How interesting it would have been if this book concluded just a few years later.
This book would be great for anyone who desires to spark the interest of history in those who have no desire to study it....(i.e., history teachers and their bored students)
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on 5 July 1998
Paul Johnson is the thinking conservative's historian. In "Modern Times" (the book that Dan Quayle read!), Mr. Johnson undertakes the huge task of illuminating the political, militaristic and philosophical underpinnings of the 20th century up to the Kennedy era. As the book progresses, Johnson's focus shifts away from the Weltenschauung of Western Europe and Russia towards that of the United States. One gets the impression that Mr. Johnson became disillusioned with Europe after the wars and turned to the U.S. in hope of its role in maintaining the "right" world order. His personal political views also begin to emerge gradually, and culminate in a diatribe on the Kennedy era. Despite its flaws, the book captured me immediately and held me, despite my more liberal views, to the end. It may be a good example of bias in the historian's art, but is nevertheless a great read!
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on 20 May 1999
Paul Johnson combines two qualities hard to find in today's historical works - readability and a theocentric world view. He challenges the reader to interpret the facts honestly, abandoning past stereotypes and biases. A fascinating overview of our century. I hope it's updated for the rest of the 1990's. A must read for anyone with an interest in modern history. Secular humanists may not like some of Johnson's conclusions.
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on 26 January 2014
A momentous project-painstakingly researched and vast in scope with attention to detail this is one of the best one volume books covering the world history of the 20th century.
A conservative perspective and therefore unlikely to be recommended reading in most university courses, which is all the more reason to read it, because it covers facts and truths that your professors in university never taught you.
Dissects the monsters of the twentieth century, such as Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot and Idi Amin and their hellish tyrannies.
And the author illustrates how these blood soaked despots operated.
Lenin showed his psychopathic nature before he seized power. At 22 he dissuaded friends from collecting money for the victims of famine on the theory that hunger performs a 'progressive function' and would drive the peasants to 'reflect on the fundamental facts of capitalist society'.
It takes an evil mind to think like this.
The Bolsheviks exploited the tensions between urban and rural populations, as a prelude to the mass killing of peasants in their hideously named 'Dekulakization drive'
Johnson reflects how 'No man personifies better the replacement of the religious impulse by the will to power" than Lenin.
Effectively Stalin was carrying on the work created by Lenin,
As regards Hitler, his philosophy was in fact in some degree also influenced by Lenin "There is no essential difference between class warfare and race warfare. between destroying a class. Between destroying a class and destroying a race. Thus the modern practise of genocide was born'.

Churchill pointed out in 1919 how of all the tyrannies in history the Bolshevik tyranny is the worst, the most destructive and most degrading."
Of course this was before the genocide carried out by Hitler and Stalin. There is no question that the regime of Mussolini could not be compared to the bloodthirsty horrors of Lenin, Stalin and Hitler.
This digest points out many facts that are overlooked. While Hitler thundered that the Bolshevik regime was 'Jewish'. and while it is true that many Jews had been prominent in the Bolshevik movements before the Russian Revolution, they steadily lost ground after the Bolsheviks came to power and after 1925 the regime was already anti-Semitic. Although there were always Jewish Marxists active in the Soviet regime who helped to persecute their own people. The Jewish Marxist have always rejected self-determination for Jews while advocating it for others.
During the 1939 Molotv-Ribbentrop pact, Hitler praised Stalin's cleansing of the communist project of Jewish influence. Johnson examines the war of the Soviet regime begun by Lenin and completed by Stalin, taking over 20 million lives, known as the 'dekulakization drive'. "It was typical of the way in which the pursuit of utopia leads a tiny handful of men in power abrubtly to assault a society many centuries in the making, to treat men like ants, and stamp on their nest.Without warning, Stalin called for an all out offensive against the kulaks. We must smash the kulaks, eliminate them as a class."
A kulak effectively meant any peasant who resisted forced collectivization.
This was one of the most horrific wars of a state against it's own people.
Going on to the rise of Hitler Johnson points out how the communist and radical left saw the Social Democrats as greater enemies than the Nazis and referred to the Social Democrats as 'social fascists' thus beginning the disease in which leftists up to and especially today refer anyone with whom they disagree (such as today anyone who is anti-Islamist terror) as 'Fascists'.
'Blinded by their own absurd political analysis the Communists actually wanted a Hitler government, believing it would be farcical affair, the prelude to their own seizure of power".
The author covers the trials and tribulations of the West, including Britain, America and Europe during this century, though I would perhaps not be as dismissive of Keynesianism and the welfare state in all cases, as Johnson seems to be.
Johnson illustrates how prior to the Spanish civil war, it was the Left who first abandoned democracy for violence and massacred thousands of peasants and clergy prior to the reaction of Franco and the Nationalists. The Republic was being steadily infiltrated and overtaken by Stalinists and it is almost certain that if it not been for the Nationalist victory, Spain would have become a Stalinist dictatorship rather than a National Conservative one.
Franco wisely kept Spain out of the war and his dictatorship after the Spanish Civil War was a fairly benevolent one.
Johnson completely takes apart the absurdity of anti-colonial conspiracy theories which are force fed to students at universities.
He examines the Watergate affair and relates how previous Presidents, including Kennedy and Johnson, had indulged in similar espionage.
But Nixon's 'imperial presidency' essentially destroyed by an imperial media which reversed the will of America's voters
The author includes a chapter on Third world regimes after independence, the horrors perpetrated by the FLN in algeria, and Idi amin's mass murder. Idi Amin's regime was a client of Gadaffi's. It was a racist regime and massacred the Langi and Acholi tribes within weeks of taking power. His personal bodyguard of Palestinian terrorists were the most ruthless and adept of his torturers and murderers
Johnson debunks the lie that the State of Israel was created by imperialism illustrating how the United Kingdom imperial government Roosevelt sided with the Arabs prior to Israel's birth and how every Arab-Israeli war after 1948 war was begun by Arab aggression.
A comprehensive history, a nuanced but never morally relative read from a perspective that needs more coverage. highly recommended.
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on 9 May 1999
This is simply one of the best and most important works of history I have ever read. Mr. Johnson is an excellent writer, one of the best writers of history there is. Mr. Johnson understands the world, understands why the tragedies of the past seventy years happened, and he is not afraid to name names. Many persons who are generally presented as heroes in other histories and the mainstream media are not presented as such here. This history is not for the faint of heard, be prepared to have many of your closely held beliefs questioned.
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on 14 April 2014
Paul Johnson is a talented writer and pens his books in a style and format that crosses the boundary between History and Journalism. The effect is to bring history alive for the masses and for those who might normally dismiss history as dull

Even those who are not interested in history will enjoy this book.The massive scope of this work is impressive.
This book would be great for anyone who desires to spark the interest of history in those who have no desire to study it....(i.e., history teachers and their bored students)

Paul Johnson combines two qualities hard to find in today's historical works - readability and a theocentric world view. He challenges the reader to interpret the facts honestly, abandoning past stereotypes and biases. A fascinating overview of our century. I hope it's updated for the rest of the 1990's. A must read for anyone with an interest in modern history. Secular humanists may not like some of Johnson's conclusions.
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VINE VOICEon 29 June 2008
I've had something of a feast of Paul Johnson in recent months. I finished his History of the American People a few weeks ago which I read alongside this one. I did notice that big chunks of the former turn up in the latter!

This is great history as journalism. Johnson has lots of tendentious opinions, and funnily enough he comes up with the thesis that his brand of religion and politics is good, and you can blame most of the world's ills on people who don't think like him. Also a few of his friends, like Thatcher, get glowing references.

He says the Americans weren't ruthless enough in Vietnam, and praises the First Gulf War, as a sign of healthy intervention in foreign affairs. However, the success of the First Gulf War led to the Second Gulf War -and that has been a disaster. He is a bit of a neocon and 80s fuddy-duddy. He has lots of scorn for Left wingers - which is intriguing, since he used to be one.

However his sweep is broad and I learnt loads about Africa and Asia that I had no idea about. He's good on the Soviet Union (though presumably a lot of this stuff has been updated since the collapse). I enjoyed the chapters on Weimar Germany and his views on commerce - and the importance of separating it from Government - I agree with.

He has some strong opinions about the Great Depression, though he admits that no historian can properly explain it. All I noticed is that the conditions he describes before it are very familiar today (long period of boom, low interest rates, excessive credit, hubris from the banks).

To stick him through nearly 1000 pages, or 2000 if I include his American history, he's definitely got an engaging and entertaining style. If you want to get interested in world history, Johnson is a man to get you started. After that, you can be amused by how other historians see the same events in a different light.
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on 4 August 1999
Johnson surveys our blood-soaked century and its mountains of corpses and lays the blame at the feet of utopian politics and the totalitarian urge to power. American education cannot be considered fully reformed until this book is required reading in every school in the land.
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on 29 November 1998
Nothing makes a tired leftist more furious than an engagement with the truth. Johnson's book, now a classic, provides a schematic for understanding the political and moral bankruptcy of "progressive" social movements and the inevitable misery and distress which follow as a consequence.
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on 24 June 1998
Excellent book. By far the most accurate, interesting, informative, and insightful history of the twentieth century I have read. This book is a must-read for all serious students of twentieth century history. The high quality of the analysis and coverage of the rise and fall of modern collectivist movements offered in this book is simply unavailable elsewhere.
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