"Chilling... To Hell and Back should be required reading in every chancellery, every editorial cockpit and every place where peevish Euroskeptics do their thinking…. Kershaw documents each and every ‘ism’ of his analysis with extraordinary detail and passionate humanism."—The New York Times Book Review
The Penguin History of Europe series reaches the twentieth century with acclaimed scholar Ian Kershaw’s long-anticipated analysis of the pivotal years of World War I and World War II.
The European catastrophe, the long continuous period from 1914 to 1949, was unprecedented in human history—an extraordinarily dramatic, often traumatic, and endlessly fascinating period of upheaval and transformation. This new volume in the Penguin History of Europe series offers comprehensive coverage of this tumultuous era. Beginning with the outbreak of World War I through the rise of Hitler and the aftermath of the Second World War, award-winning British historian Ian Kershaw combines his characteristic original scholarship and gripping prose as he profiles the key decision makers and the violent shocks of war as they affected the entire European continent and radically altered the course of European history. Kershaw identifies four major causes for this catastrophe: an explosion of ethnic-racist nationalism, bitter and irreconcilable demands for territorial revisionism, acute class conflict given concrete focus through the Bolshevik Revolution, and a protracted crisis of capitalism.
Incisive, brilliantly written, and filled with penetrating insights, To Hell and Back offers an indispensable study of a period in European history whose effects are still being felt today.
Kershaw (The End), an acclaimed British historian and biographer of Hitler, looks at a 36-year stretch of the 20th century when Europe was dominated by Germany, from the outbreak of World War I to the nation's division in the aftermath of World War II. Kershaw's strength is political and economic history he devotes less attention to military, social, and intellectual matters and he uncovers a number of largely forgotten events, including the 1919 1921 conflict between Germans and Poles in the Baltics and Upper Silesia that claimed 100,000 lives. Unfortunately, Kershaw's book suffers from three significant shortcomings. His prose is dull, in part because there are insufficient telling anecdotes, and he is prone to capturing history via tangential statistics. He also stretches himself thin in writing about peripheral states, as when he addresses the nature of authoritarian rule in Estonia in the 1930s, which takes up more space than his attention to the surrender of France to Nazi Germany in June 1940. Finally, while Kershaw possesses superb knowledge of Britain and Germany and is adequate on the U.S.S.R., he repeatedly glosses over developments in France during the period. These deficiencies make Kershaw's fact-laden and well-organized history less than satisfying. Maps & illus.