A vibrant new history of twentieth-century Europe - covering everything from war and politics to social, cultural, and economic developments in a period of convulsive and dramatic change.
Barbarism and civilization have been inextricably intertwined in 20th-century Europe, says University of Chicago historian Wasserstein in this tour-de-force. Taking WWI as his starting point, Wasserstein (Britain and the Jews of Europe 1939 1945) details how some of history's greatest achievements (increased democracy, widespread wealth and longevity) have been accompanied by tremendous violence two vicious world wars, government-instigated famine in the Soviet Union, genocide in the Balkans and terrorism in the name of Islam. Wasserstein focuses on politics and the economy, moving smoothly from Britain to Germany to Russia to Turkey and back, with a clear command of all the historical material. Cultural and gender issues receive occasional attention, as in his discussions of the status of women in the 1930s and 1960s. Wasserstein even takes his story up to the present, covering changes Muslim immigration has brought to the Continent. At all times, he displays a clear writing style and an admirable balance, two traits that make this a rare gem of contemporary scholarship. Wasserstein ends on a pessimistic note: while he sees greater "tenderness" toward the needy, he fears for the future in a "post-Christian" Europe without a moral compass and a vulgarized public discourse and aesthetics. Photos, maps.