cover image 1946: The Making of the Modern World

1946: The Making of the Modern World

Victor Sebestyen. Pantheon, $30 (464p) ISBN 978-1-101-87042-6

In this salient, grim narrative history, journalist and historian Sebestyen (Revolution 1989) portrays 1946 as the year that “laid the foundations of the modern world.” The early postwar period witnessed vast and unprecedented destruction, famine, and displacement throughout much of Europe and Asia, which Sebestyen describes in harrowing detail, reminding readers that human suffering didn’t end with the conclusion of the war. With mesmerizing detail and riveting vignettes scattered throughout, Sebestyen explores virtually every major postwar theme and event: German de-Nazification and guilt (or lack thereof), lingering anti-Semitism throughout Europe, the early stages of the creation of Israel, civil war in Greece, the disarmament and remaking of Japan, British imperial exhaustion and decline, the lead-up to independence and partition of India and Pakistan, the increasing likelihood of a communist victory in China’s civil war, the division of Europe, and the early stages of the Cold War. Though admittedly focused largely on Europe, this informed, engaging, and accessible history of the year that U.S. president Harry Truman called the year of decisions will prove to have wide and diverse appeal. [em](Nov.) [/em]