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Small Wars, Far Away Places: The Genesis of the Modern World 1945-65 Paperback – Unabridged, 13 Mar 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; Reprints edition (13 Mar. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 033052948X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330529488
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 3.7 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 202,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Superb, scholarly, insightful and often witty ... magnificent (Literary Review)

Terrific ... Burleigh writes with a keen eye for self-righteousness, hypocrisy and unintended consequences. He is quite brilliant at puncturing the vanities of history's great and good. (Dominic Sandbrook Evening Standard)

A brilliant, complex, contradictory story, replete with character and incident, pungent and pithy and refreshingly free of preaching ... the author delights in the detail, the small moment illustrating a large truth (Ben Macintyre The Times)

Vividly written and stimulating ... the raw truth, conveyed in scintillating language by a master of historical irony and of the grimly entertaining. If history for grown-ups is what you're after, this is it. (George Walden Sunday Telegraph)

Burleigh is an equal opportunity moralist, not an ideologue, and he stalks his prey with feline grace ... This is a story of personalities as much as one of geopolitical shifts, and Burleigh is a master of bringing it alive with sharp character insights. (Christopher Sylvester Financial Times)

The violent geopolitical shifts of the immediate postwar years constitute a dramatic saga, which Burleigh recounts with panache and wit ... lucid and persuasive. (Piers Brendon The Sunday Times)

Burleigh is the don of elegant, historical writing and every vignette in this book is arresting. His ability to command his material is truly breathtaking ... damnably good. (John Lewis-Stempel Sunday Express)

Harsh and vivid (Max Hastings Financial Times)

Magnificent and entertaining (Daily Express)

None of these stories is new, but the rich detail with which Burleigh writes, as well as his piercing analysis, makes them seem so. He nails his cast of politicians, generals and revolutionaries to the page in a series of ruthlessly observed character sketches ... as a description of the way imperial power drained from Europe to America, his book is quite brilliant. (Keith Lowe Mail on Sunday)

Book Description

Longlisted for the 2013 Samuel Johnson Prize, a trenchant and thought-provoking account of the death of empire by one of our finest historians

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Customer Reviews

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By Miran Ali VINE VOICE on 5 Jun. 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
I bought this book, well because it just seemed so interesting. And some of the actions described are ones that most people are unfamiliar with these days. Teh author has a quirky perspective on a lot of issues and makes reading his accounts enjoyable. Somewhat like Max Boot. However Michael has an irritating habit of making snap judgements about historical figures without qualifying his statements. While I found the vignettes of the individual conflicts a great read, the book ends abruptly and seemed to lack any overall theme.
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Format: Hardcover
I would not normally have picked up a book about various colonial conflicts but, as a fan of the author, I bought it and - like his work on terrorism - found it more interesting than I expected. What makes the work engaging is how these numerous conflicts are put in the context of a world in transition from one where the old European empires held sway to one where America would have to pick up the slack. The great irony at the heart of the book is that America itself welcomed the liquidation of the old colonial powers initially (how could it not given its own history) but found itself by the late 1960s bogged down in a conflict in Vietnam that it had inherited from those European powers (and while America may have branded itself differently the game it was playing globally was eerily similar to that of the European powers of the nineteenth century).

So the work has broad sweep and is put in the context of trends in global history. At the same time it goes nitty-gritty and engages with the characters that participated and shaped events. The book does not look to put all these conflicts in one bucket but rather identifies how people shaped events and some conflicts turned out better than others.

Nuanced and entertaining, I do hope Michael Burleigh publishes again soon. Given that Burleigh's career-defining topic has been political religion, perhaps he could have a look at the monetary policies of the twentieth century and where they have led us....
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Format: Paperback
In a concise and readable, yet also probing and analytical survey of the two decades after the Second World War, Burleigh charts the painful, turbulent and, often, violent passage of peoples trying to shake free of colonialism mostly in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Carribean. It is not a comfortable read, exposing some of lowest moments in the post-war political affairs of Britain, France, the United States, the Soviet Union, China, and other powerful nations. The author holds up a mirror that shows us the ugly, exploitative side of our nations, and how they have (mis)behaved on the world stage. Assorted respected statesmen also get knocked from their historical pedestals (fans of John F.Kennedy will be livid), being exposed as manipulative, opportunistic, or simply stupid in their dealings with impoverished Third World Countries.

The range of conflicts covered is impressive: Algeria, Congo, Cuba, the Hungarian revolution, Indo-China, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Kenya, Korea, Malaya, the Philippines, Rhodesia, the Suez crisis, & culminating in Vietnam. There are also concise and illuminating (and critical) summaries of leaders who shaped the postwar world, including Castro, Churchill, de Gaulle, Eden, Eisenhower, Ho Chi Mihn, Kennedy, Khruschev, Macmillan, Mao, Stalin, & Truman.

As a consequence Burleigh shows how and why the peoples of many undeveloped nations now distrust or even hate the West - his book explains so much about the antagonistic state of the world in the 21st century. (Especially relevant to current international affairs is the account of how MI6 & the CIA manipulated Iranian politics to keep Oil under the control of British & American oil companies.) I have found it an illuminating and insightful survey, and rank it among the most important books on Modern History I have read over the past decade. Five stars doesn't do it justice.
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Format: Hardcover
Considering the murderous international chicanery it describes over a 20 year period it seems almost indecent to say I enjoyed it. I do not think it can be accused of right or left-wing bias as he has a go at just about everybody confirming the words of the Pirate King in the “Pirates of Penzance”. When accused of being a murderous cutthroat he in effect replies “There’s many King on the first class throne has to do a lot worse than cut throats if he wants to keep his throne so I will stick to piracy thank you."

He is particularly scathing about the British action in Kenya and the attitude of the settlers who were apparently loathed as arrogant upstarts by just about everyone up to and including Winston Churchill. He notes that the number of settlers murdered was less than those killed in road accidents this is not particularly relevant. It is one thing to have a friend or family member killed in a road accident and quite another to have to watch ones children chopped to pieces from the feet upwards or ones women staked out and raped to death. No mention that more Africans suffered at the hands of the Mau Mau than European settlers.

As someone who lived through the Che Guevara era he confirms that he was as arrogant and incompetent as one gets and completely wrecked the Cuban economy. He notes he ordered a Cuban industrialist to turn over his property or have his sons shot causing the man to commit suicide. Not surprising then that one of the mans sons was a leading member of the CIA team that finished him off.
Against all local advice he took himself off to Africa to push his brand of revolution among people who believed magic water was proof against bullets and would not dig foxholes as it would disturb the spirits of the dead..
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