I see there are a lot of views expressed in the reviews here disagreeing with Judt's viewpoints on various issues. By and large I am happy with his views although at various points his emphases are different to mine.
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.
on 28 February 2013
This book could make an excellent last volume of the New Cambridge Modern History, which traditionally ended after 1945. This book of Tony Judt, begins there and ends around the year 2000 and is an incredible read, which can only leave you amazed in so many ways. The biggest question and topic of amazement is of course, how Europe overcame the catastrophic effects of WW2, as the demand of a unconditional surrender, left Europe basically in ruins. It was destroyed, looted, eradicated. There was starvation, poverty, anger and many lost family member and beloved ones. But Europe moved on and rebuilt itself, becoming stronger and more united than ever. This alone should already be regarded as one of the most stunning miracles of the 20th Century. Judt, spends a great deal (about 1/4th of the book) to this, and gives as such a great overview and understanding of what needed to be done and how it was done. Central to this is of course the creation of the welfare state, and intellectual flirting with communism and socialism, mainly in France, which was also already subject of earlier research and books of Judt. The book makes a strong point for the fact that especially in western Europe practically all governments took the course of keeping the lower classes of society satisfied, as it was believed this caused WW2 and explains then too why everybody massively turned to Keynes, Socialism or even Marxism. From there, when it becomes clear that Marxism, doesn't work, slowly we move into the Neo-Liberal era, Thatcherism, and what basically started the still ongoing breakdown of that same welfare state. In between, Judt talks about the Marshall plan, the Cold War, the Suez crisis, the Prague Spring, the occupation of Eastern Europe by the Soviets, the creation of the NATO and the EU, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the Balkan conflict, and many other we'll known subjects and personalities. But what makes the book so good is that this all is narrated together in one complete story, which is forming a great departure point or platform for further reading on contemporary European history. It is long (the text itself already 840 pages) but I wish I had this book for my courses in modern European history. This is a book that you want to re-read from time to time.
Postwar is a remarkable history of postwar Europe by Tony Judt.He admits to being free of an over-arching theory: "Fox-like Europe knows many things"His writing is remarkably free,concise,lucidand adheres largely to the postwar change to social democracy,free markets,social welfare systems. He details the way America helped Europe after the war with aid programmes, but Europe increasingly pulled away into its own independent autonomy in its creation of the Common Market,then the European Community,especially in its reaction to the Russian occupation of eastern Europe. The European empires were largely shed and European countries contracted into their own continent. The two resultant great powers were USSR and America. EC, a necessity,emerged like a phoenix from the ashes.
Judt tackles the post-war recriminations against Nazism and Communism and the Holocaust,the former two the major ideologies of the 20th century,whose influence laid down the postwar stabilization of Europe.The initial period of silence and people wishing not to dwell on the war or war crimes or their collaboration with Nazism,was followed by trials,written histories,education about the Holocaust, each country's acknowledgement of its anti-semitic guilt by building memorials to the Jewish victims.We see the Germans through the unification becoming the powerhouse of Europe,after a period of Ostpolitik and expensive adjustments.EC freed Europe from any more wars.
He tackles stepping-stones,1953 Berlin,1956 Hungary,1968 Czechozlovakia,glasnost and perestroika in the Soviet Union,1989 fall of the Berlin Wall,in the demolishment of Communism and the opening up of Russia to market economics,but not necessarily democracy,with its reserves of gas and energy to hold some sway over the European suppliesKruschev's criticism of Stalinism led to a thaw. The Cold War began after the 1st WW,not after the 2ndWW. Gorbachev's follies in unleashing forces beyond his control and understanding. With 1989 there was the increasing desire of the post-Sovieteastern Europeans to join the European Union to become part of civilised Europe.
He covers the changes in the sixties,the fashions,music,ideological ferment of 68 and the terrorist organisations like the Baader-Meinhoff group and the Red Brigade.He deals with the post-authoritarian Mediterranean renaissance of Greece,Portugal and Spain in their entry into the EC. His superb knowledge of European film,the New Wave,Cahier du Cinema,the literary movements and existentialist philosophy,the rise and fall of the French intellectual,its flirtation with Communism.
Judt treats the Catholic church in two ways,in Spain its seen as part of the ancien regime,holding back change,allying itself with Francoism,having exemption from taxation and state interference, allowed to censor any writing or speech to which it objected,with a conservative conflation of the church with national identity.To this it added a new cult of the dead,the`martyrs of the victorious side in the recent Civil War,memorial sites dedicated to victims of anti-clerical Republicanism.
In Poland its resurgence comes with a Polish Pope who is charismatic and messianic,seeing the Church as the eastern frontier of the True Faith in its struggle against Eastern atheism and Western materialism;in martial Poland itwas the pole of resistance.Allying itself with the non-Party free trade union movement and Solidarity.The idea of `practising society',building links with the Catholic Church,formed staging posts in the rebirth of civil society. Individuals like Walesa and Havel were essential to the re-emergence of freely elected democracies,bound by law and civil codes in eastern Europe.
He gives a formidable analysis of the break-up of Yugoslavia,the Serbian-Bosnian conflict which I found clarified the events.He also gives a good picture of separatist movements like the Catholics of northern Ireland,the Basques of northern Spain,the Flemish nationalists in Belgian Flandres,also the revolt of the Algerians against their French overlords.His analysis of the underground movements of West Germany,the link between extra-parliamentary politics and outright violence,equating American capitalism with Nazism via Marxist rhetoric,using remarkably Nazi-like methods, is astute.
A magnificent work with ground-breaking sweep and masterly analysis and synthesis of a lifetime. Europe might inherit the 21st century if this work's cautious optimism is anything to go by.This is an amazingly light read for such a weighty tome.An historian with impressive wit,style and intellectual courage,who in this book right up to the present chances in-built obscolescence and says the last word,reaching a journalistic objectivity,that no other tome that comes after will ever match.I read this after reading the importance of his legacy by Hobsbawn.His blind areas are that as a secular atheistJew he largely leaves religion out of his account,like Rome without Christianity.
on 16 January 2012
This is a book for all European `baby-boomers'. The author was born in 1948, as I was. Anyone born in Europe since 1945 will enjoy it, especially if they have an eye for detail and an interest in politics. `European' because the narrative is expressly confined to that Continent, though Judt wrote in American English; but he painted on a wide canvas nonetheless - from Spain to the Urals and from Scandinavia to Greece.
If you are a baby-boomer and want to know the answer to the question of why the world was as it was, say in the 1960s, you will find the answer here. Why did the Cold War `break out' in the first place? Why was there a NATO and a Warsaw Pact? Why was there détente and then renewed Cold War? Why was there a West Germany and an East Germany? Why was the Berlin Wall built? You will find convincing answers here.
Then, moving on to middle age, why did the Eastern bloc fall apart? Why did the Soviet Union collapse? Why was Gorbachev such a failure in his own country? Why did Communism fail? Why did it not transform itself into `Socialism with a Human Face'? Or again, why was it not replaced with something more Left-Wing, as many of the student radicals in the 1960s hoped? Again, Judt provides answers.
Again, why was there a `Common Market' and a `European Union'? Why did Francois Mitterand turn from socialist to capitalist almost overnight? Why did the Soviet Union allow Germany to re-unite? Why were so many of the hopes of 1989-91 dashed so cruelly and so soon? Why did Slovakia separate from Czechoslovakia? Why did Yugoslavia fall apart so spectacularly? This is a profound as well as comprehensive book.
Judt wrote like an angel. He was good on economics and culture as well as politics; but, if there is one lesson I took from the book, I suppose it is that, ultimately - and contrary to what Marx thought - politics is more important than economics. Sadly, Judt died last year or the year before, from Motor-Neurone Disease. It will be difficult for others to equal his achievement.
on 16 April 2014
A lot has been written about Europe between 1939 and 1945. Indeed, a lot went on in those years that would have a profound effect on the future of the European continent, and the world. But just what were those effects? In this masterpiece of narration, historian Tony Judt takes the reader on a journey from the ashes of 1945 right up to the middle of the 1980′s that is both enthralling in its detail and brilliantly written. True, the author is at times quite-single minded in his views on certain topics, but one can hardly expect an author to remain entirely neutral throughout a work of this scope. That said, I had no trouble distinguishing fact from opinion.
What really captivated me about this book is the sheer scope of what is covered. Far from concentrating on the west, Judt takes us behind the iron curtain, providing a clear and vivid picture not only of events, but attitudes, mindset and the thinking behind much of the cold war and its effect on both sides of the divide.
In summary, of all the books I have read on this period, this one is by far the most comprehensive. It is also written in a way that is guaranteed to captivate the reader, something that cannot be claimed by all of its contemporaries. As for who should read it, I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the state of modern Europe and the path which has led us to where we are today.
on 8 August 2011
The grasp of historical complexities and the clarity of the prose are amazing; however, what is truly exceptional is the sense of fairness which comes through each evaluation of a situation or event. I can only recommend this book very strongly to anyone who is interested in "where we come from" at this point in Europe's history and who would like to become acquainted with the mind of a great historian. A caveat: the font is very small and the layout too dense for pleasurable reading for a long period.
If you buy just one history of postwar Europe this is the one to have. Judt has the knack of explaining complex affairs in a clear and simple manner. Ok it's a long book but its a very complex period so it takes some explaining.
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.
on 26 January 2012
It's a real travesty for Amazons ratings system that this book is deemed only 4 star. This is quite simply the most profound history of the last 60 years of Europe imaginable.
Tony judt explores everything in chronological order, from the 'allied' partitioning of Germany to the oligarchs of modern Russia, and seemingly every historically noteworthy event in between. The delusional efforts at clinging to colonial power of England and France in particular are described with free flowing prose. The vast cultural and economic differences between east and west are thoroughly explored. To mark this epic work down for a factual error about the eurovision song contest seems petty to say the least.
The author of Postwar should be proud of this, extremely proud. Please don't miss out on it.
on 17 April 2006
Although a reasonably well-read European, I was stunned by how much I learned from Postwar. It is an amazing work that tracks European development from 1945 to 2005 in political, economical, social and cultural terms. Key political figures as well as philosophers, writers and film-makers are portrayed in the context of their times and circumstances. Their impact at national as well as pan-European levels suddenly make more sense. It seems to me balanced and objective where assessments or judgements are made. I also loved the language and was glad that there were not interminable notes to interrupt the page-turning. This is a book I will read again.
on 4 November 2012
Four stars are not enough for this book and I think it's certainly more worthy of five.
For someone like myself whose interest in history far exceeds my knowledge, this is a superb way to follow Europe through and after WWII. It's not always an easy read but it's always educational, full of the kind of information that answers the questions I might think to pose.
Tony Judt doesn't talk down the way some people tend to do when treating this kind of subject, but he does give his readers credit for the intelligence and perseverance to follow what is a detailed subject that requires a book of this 'volume.'
ALl in all a wonderful read, and doubtless an excellent reference.
Amazon Verified Purchase