History of the Twentieth Century, A, Vol III: Volume Three: 1952-1999

Martin Gilbert, Author
Martin Gilbert, Author William Morrow & Company $36 (1088p) ISBN 978-0-688-10066-7
Reviewed on: 11/01/1999
Release date: 11/01/1999
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One of the most respected and prolific historians of his era, Gilbert concludes his massive three-volume history of the century in fine form. Gilbert returns to his story in the middle of the Korean War and takes readers through April 1999, as NATO bombs devastate Serbia. He names the chapters for years and seldom strays from strict chronology. This method allows him to avoid the false clarities of 20/20 hindsight, but it also sacrifices some cohesion, as events that might be illuminatingly linked by theme are separated, sometimes artificially, by the advent of a new year. Not surprisingly, the main drama in this volume is the Cold War and its aftershocks. Gilbert demonstrates how the military rivalry between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. obsessed the two superpowers (he points out that both the U.S. highway system and the military precursor to the Internet were designed as contingencies in case of nuclear attack) and dictated alignments throughout the world. Gilbert also focuses on events outside the geopolitical arena: the text begins with a description of the first artificial heart surgery, and he keeps his thumb on the accelerating pulse of technology and popular culture. Gilbert's catalogue of years is an essential blueprint of recent world history and should prove a fitting capstone to the century as well as his illustrious career. (Nov.)
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