19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Gripping, but a dark and terrifying read,
This review is from: The War of the World: History's Age of Hatred (Allen Lane History) (Hardcover)
Make no mistake: The War of the World is a fascinating, detailed and informative page-turner, but you are likely to emerge from it with any residual faith in humanity seriously damaged if not completely destroyed. We all know that the 20th century, and in particular the first half, was perhaps the single darkest chapter in human history, but such are the depths of depravity, slaughter and inhumanity exhaustively catalogued, enumerated, and endlessly reinforced here over some 650 pages that the accumulated effect is nothing short of devastating.
As usual, Ferguson takes a cross-grained approach to conventional wisdom, aggregating all the eastern and western conflicts, pogroms and massacres, so that although the substantial focus of the book is on the two world wars, the flow of blood is continuous. His central thesis concerns racial friction as a catalyst for conflict, and the endless repetition of the same patterns across so many disparate stages is truly frightening.
Nobody emerges well from this - the British are hesitant and stand-offish, but quick to justify the extermination of civilian populations in the cause of victory; the Americans slaughter Japanese PoWs indiscriminately, and the Allies are ultimately content to throw Eastern Europe to the wolves in full knowledge that they may be sowing the seeds of a still more devastating third war. Doubtless many of Ferguson's assertions are contentious, and occasionally he dismisses some evidence seemingly for no better reason than because it doesn't suit his thesis. Could the Third Reich really have been nipped in the bud if appeasement had failed a year earlier, as he argues at some length? What would the consequences of this have been for Europe's future stability, assuming the game of Empires had continued?
But ultimately history is all about interpretation, this is certainly the most compelling, chilling, readable and instructive overview of this period that I have ever read, and I highly recommend it.
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Initial post: 30 Nov 2007 06:01:51 GMT
Ross, you've written the review I was planning to write. Fully agree with both marks and text. Somebody has written (in untranslated Italian) that History - for all its broad sweep - is underlied by a magma of untold human suffering: not the heoric death but, say, the Resistance fighter who died under torture and disappeared, unknown to most, just to have the information he withheld released by somebody else. Ferguson 's history validates the point in so many flashes. It's very, very sad reading, but gripping nonetheless.
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