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on 7 June 2016
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.. Eventually he came back to Bolivia and into America's backyard where a properly trained and equipped army made short work of him.

Lesson - arrogance and incompetence in every area of government is no bar to being a model for idealists and a revolutionary hero.
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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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on 3 October 2016
The end of WW2 did indeed see a whole series of small wars. In this book in trying to deal with so many small means that deeper details have inevitably had to be restricted. This author would have been better advised to concentrate on fewer small wars but in greater depth
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on 2 July 2014
I thought this book was well written and covered a broad range of subjects; admiitedly some of them in not too much depth, but enough to encourage the reader to seek out more detailed tomes.

What I found annoying though, was the author's right-wing bias, exemplified by the following quote on page 346:

"...they became the targets of the universal left's Manichean demonology that divides peoples according to its own definition of history".

I'm sure that all historians view their subjects through the prism of their own political philosophy, but I find myself turned off when they display that philosophy so blatantly.
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on 4 August 2013
This book appears to have been hastily written and tries to cover too much with a degree of depth that careers widely from minute details about someone's life to skipping through the background of major conflicts (such as the background to Vietnam). From an historical perspective, Burleigh derails too often and slips into making personal caustic comments on players, which should never belong in a serious historical work - which, frankly, this is not. He draws few conclusions or trends that might be of relevance and the only summary he presents (on page 506, the last page) is laughable. There are some interesting points he makes but this feels very much like the work of someone who has trawled through existing secondary literature that exists in English (or more likely, has some interns do it for him) than being a serious historical work.
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on 28 August 2014
I found this a very readable book. I would agree with other reviewers when they point out that there is nothing particularly new in terms of historical content. However what Burleigh does express well is that individuals create history as much as groups,. In this regard his illumination of the leading and key personalities of the era was insightful. He also has a quirky sense of humour and wit that infuses the book, no better illustrated than in the epilogue.
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on 10 July 2013
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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on 9 August 2016
Excellent book on a period of History still effecting us today . A pleasure to read and tells you a lot about the post war period and how it was influenced by the pre-war period of the thirties , and the fear of the Red menace which was not always there.
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on 27 September 2015
A brilliant insight into the politics of empire and the rise og cold war geopolitics.
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VINE VOICEon 5 June 2013
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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