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on 14 January 2011
I was motivated to write this review by looking at the average rating and seeing only three and a half stars; that is absurdly low for a book that is already becoming a classic. Don't be put off by the negative reviews on here which are mainly written by people with specific hobby horses or concerned about a few insignificant factual errors - but those are inevitable in a work with such breathtaking scope. If the most serious error in a book that covers the contemporary history of the whole continent is about the date of the first eurovision song contest, then that tells you that Judt gets a lot of things right.

Those who write that the first chapters are the strongest are more on the money (but then, name me a historian who can analyse the present as well as s/he can the past). And those opening chapters are simply awesome. If you don't learn to look at the second world war and its legacy in a new light, if you don't think again about the rebuilding of Europe, about the implementation of Stalinism in eastern europe and the attitudes of western intellectuals, or how the intellectual and cultural movements of western europe in the 60s and 70s interacted with the times they sprang from, then you are probably already an excellent historian in your own right and I would like to read your books as well.

You might not agree with all of his conclusions, but the fact that the book is so (in his word) opinionated is a good thing - it challenges you to work out what you yourself think and why. It avoids repeating the received wisdom, and challenges it on a great many subjects. It demands that you engage with a lot of still-live topics (cumulateively, the book adds up to a powerful argument in favour of rational social democracy). It makes cogs turn in your mind. You thought you had a picture of postwar europe in your mind's eye - Judt shows you that it was only a thumbnail. There is a lot to discover, and to contemplate.
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on 8 September 2009
This is a huge piece of work. It took me more than two years to finish the entire book, and I took long breaks resting from it. Nevertheless, it was worth the effort. This volume is now one of the most important works in my collection of history books.
Three things impressed me in "Postwar".
1. English. In the globalized world where everybody seems to speak English it is quite easy to loose good taste for language, especially in the academic literature. We read books on history and science without any expectations of their language having the richness of a fictional literary work. Tony Judt certainly breaks this rule - he writes in a beautiful language, cleverly formulated sentences, and carefully constructed paragraphs. One often forgets one is reading a book on history. Thus, it was a huge pleasure to read "Postwar".
2. Broadness. The depth and broadness of topics covered is impressive. Each country, small and big, each important aspect of social life, is covered. For people mostly familiar with the history of their own country, like myself, this book will provide a lot of valuable information and a lot of insight about what was happening in other countries in Europe after 1945. Whether you would like to know about national conflicts in Belgium or the origins of the Hungarian revolution, this book is the book to look at, at least to get the most important information.
3. Objectivity. I am very pleased with the objectivity of the book. In my opinion, Tony Judt does not take any initial opinion on a subject described. The reader is left with sufficient information to have his/her own judgement on each of the topics. In this regard the present book is a pleasant exception.

In summary: a huge work, both in terms of size and in terms of quality. Highly recommended.
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on 23 November 2005
Tony Judt's book is a lively and contentious narrative of Postwar Europe from the effects of WW2 right up to the removal of the last statue of Franco in Madrid on March 17th 2005. The key European events covered in detail: Cold War, formation of the European Union, collapse of Communism, war in the Balkans. Weaved through this is a commanding sense of social and political history from a liberal/left perspective.
It is particular strong on film [and TV] which is used to underscore political and social narratives, with plenty of illustrations from memoirs and satire. The grand theme is Europe's collective guilt over the Holocaust and how the different countries have denied, then acknowledged (or not) their roles. This theme is defining for Judt and it will continue to define Europe's collective persona for future generations. On this latter issue Judt's arguments are well illustrated with examples from literature and Europe's intellectuals - both largely ignored by the politicians.
Europe's future will be tested by whether or not it grow towards something more than just a grand market place for the exchange of goods and services.
My only regret is the lack of a thematic bibliography - bibliographical references are within the text at the bottom of the page only.
This is a big read at 830 pages - but it is engrossing
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on 20 January 2014
This is no easy read. To be frank, I started reading on Kindle last August and I am 80% through. It is a massive piece of work. In his book 'Postwar' Tony Judt describes in sometimes excruciating detail, the economic, social and political changes as well as the reasons for the changes in all the countries of Europe. The work is probably most valuable as a reference on subjects such as for example; the fall of communism, the effect of the transistor radio on 1960's youth, the impact of the EU. I could go on.

Judt sometimes writes difficult sentences and has a habit of using unusual words so that frequent references to a dictionary are required. A more annoying habit is the insertion of French phrases. Frustrating to non French speakers.

These are my only criticisms. The reader gains insight into how the modern world developed as well as the idea that we take much for granted. The Europe of today is truly miraculous when seen from the perspective of the devastation in 1945.
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on 30 December 2012
This book gives a clear narrative of how Europe has changed and emerged from the terrible mess of the end of the Second World War. Tony Judt wrote in a clear, accessible manner and, the occasional barbed comment aside, in an unbiased manner. This is the first book that I have read by this author and the integrity of his writings became clear to me from the outset.

I write this review in December 2012 - a period of our time when the Euro is in crisis, and where the European Union is at a crossroads - and this book gives a clear account of how the Europe we know today came into being. Accounts like this are important, for they enable us, as citizens, to make clear decisions about how we want our institutions to evolve, armed as we are with a clear understanding of the historical context of how Europe became what it is today. And this is important because the debate (certainly here in the UK) has been dominated by Eurosceptics and many of the books on the subject of Europeans follow the Eurosceptic view. These books tend to be read by fellow Eurosceptics because they mirror their views and prejudices, yet there are few alternatives that are actually unbiased and which show a clear understanding of the subject.

Tony Judt's death in 2010 is a terrible loss to us all, for his books show an integrity that is sadly missing in the European sphere. I strongly recommend you read this book,whatever your views about Europe.
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on 23 May 2015
I bought this as a counterpoint tp Mazower. So pleased I did. A much better book, if less groundbreaking. In my opinion Judt dealt with his topics much better, and fleshed out his arguments so much better, and in a more rounded way. Anyone doing A327 at the Open University - this is a good book.
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on 30 August 2010
The author opinion is transparent throughout every page and is the opinion of a person who has assessed thoroughly his thought with the search of facts; it also comes out as a text who has been assessed after discussions with scholars. The inner background, felt by the author, is perceivable (his religion origin, his political inclination) and some perspective is not objective, but when this happens it is well declared; this may sound as a drawback, however he is able to turn this as a powerful tool which makes the text an essential recount of this time that Europe went through. The text, finally is very enjoyable. Sometimes European history looked to me as a grey and bland epoch: it turns out as a exciting period that must be learned. I can finally understand many whys and other secret stories.
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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.

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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.
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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.

These are:

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.
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