The World on Fire: 1919 and the Battle with Bolshevism

Anthony Read, Author . Norton $27.95 (379p) ISBN 978-0-393-06124-6

Read (The Devil's Disciples: Hitler's Inner Circle ) offers a lucid, gripping history of how the leaders of Western democracies reacted to the Russian revolution. Bolsheviks made clear their intention to unleash a worldwide revolution, and Churchill and others feared similar uprisings on their own soil. On December 30, 1918, bombs exploded at the houses of prominent Philadelphia businessmen and civic leaders. Fearing this was a Bolshevik attack, Philadelphians warned that other cities might come under the radicals' fire next. In Britain, unemployment was on the rise and worker morale was plummeting. Strikes rocked cities from Glasgow to Seattle. When workers and peasants in Spain began organizing, local estate owners blamed Red Russia, as did foreign journalists, like the French correspondent who opined that “[a] wave of Bolshevism is passing over Andalusia.” That spring also saw a spike in American panic about radicalism—when an alert postal worker barely managed to avert mailing out more than a dozen bombs in New York, everyone noticed that the bombs would have arrived around May Day. This sweeping, brilliant history, which travels from Turin, Italy, to Winnipeg, Canada, makes one crucial year in the history of global politics and labor come alive and has obvious resonance with the present moment. 16 pages of illus. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 12/24/2007
Release date: 03/01/2008
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!