A Short History of the Twentieth Century

John Lukacs. Harvard/Belknap, $24.95 (224p) ISBN 978-0-674-72536-2
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In this slim, dense volume, historian Lukacs (History and the Human Condition) delivers an insightful overview of the “historical” 20th century, a span beginning in 1914 with WWI and ending in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall. In attempting to discuss 75 years of extremely eventful world history, Lukacs naturally picks and chooses the things he considers most important. He places a disproportionate focus on the United States and Europe and the events and aftermaths of the World Wars, while giving short shrift to Asia, Africa, and South America. Most events are discussed within one or more of a handful of frameworks (e.g., nationalism, colonialism, capitalism, etc.), resulting in an entertaining if idiosyncratic tour of what Lukacs refers to as “—an? the?—American century.” His biases show throughout, especially when he refers to the “deplorable, dwarfish dictatorships in the so-called Third World” or “the unbroken reputation of America, an object of worldwide emulation.” His take on the historical 20th century is one in which states become nations, wars are waged, and borders are redrawn. Lukacs has definitely bitten off more than he can chew, but if taken with a grain of salt, it’s still a tasty morsel. Agent: Georges Borchardt, Georges Borchardt Inc. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 07/01/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
Genre: Nonfiction
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