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Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties

4.27  ·  Rating Details ·  1,653 Ratings  ·  127 Reviews

The classic world history of the events, ideas, and personalities of the twentieth century.

ebook, revised, 880 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 1983)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Loring Wirbel
An agnostic wag once said, "Any fool can make fun of evangelicals, but if you really want to see a crazed doctrine, look for a conservative Catholic, preferably a conservative Jesuit." This certainly holds true for Paul Johnson, who mars what could have been a superbly written book of breathtaking scope, with points of view that aren't merely limited or blinkered, but downright crazed at times.

In the first couple chapters, I was ready to give this book an instant 5 stars, due to the author's abi
carl  theaker
Aug 22, 2014 carl theaker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ww2, history


Knowing my wife isn't keen on reading history I
certainly noticed when she added
'Modern Times The World from the Twenties to the Nineties'
to the take-to-the-used-bookstore pile. When I queried
what she was doing with a history book (hopefully not too
offensively)? she replied:

'I was going to read it back when I wanted to be smarter.'

Since we were trying to clear the shelves off a bit,
I hesitated on keeping it, plus it was the size of a brick,
or two. Not that I ha
May 23, 2010 Eddie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A conservative's view on modern history. I didn't like it because it only told one side of the story and was biased. The value in the book is how Johnson emphasizes and shows the importance of individuals in history. Mao and Chiang Ka-Sheck? hated each other and this precipitated the fall of China to communism. It was not inevitable. He also points out the importance of the example of the free west, mainly America. It was interesting to read these exact same sentiments in recent issues of Foreig ...more
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
Si crees que no se podía contar la historia del mundo en el siglo XX en algo menos de 800 páginas te has equivocado. Sí, yo mismo me equivoqué. No he leído en mi vida a nadie con tanta capacidad de síntesis, de análisis y de profundidad, y que puede contarlo al mismo tiempo con esa forma tan campechan y tranquila como quien se despereza. No se nota el esfuerzo. Este libro no se lee, se absorve. Comenzando antes de la 1ª Guerra Mundial el autor toma el hilo de la historia con calma pero sin pausa ...more
Feb 11, 2009 Kyle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History Buffs
Finally finished this one! It's such a thick read that I had to read a chapter at a time interspersed with other reading. Modern Times is a history of the 20th century, or, more precisely, from Einstein's theory of relativity to the Gulf War. Paul Johnson is a British Roman Catholic historian/intellectual of a decidedly conservative bent. And by conservative I mean of the old-school type: free markets, individual responsibility, very limited government in the lives of citizens, and pro-tradition ...more
If you have come to this point, where something has intrigued you enough about Paul Johnson's history of the Twentieth Century to the degree that you are reading reviews about it, then I say go ahead and take the plunge. For some, it might be necessary to read Howard Zinn afterwards, just to balance back out--the idea is that neither of these two should be taken at face value, though they can be persuasive. The important thing to remember is that, depending on your private views, facts are subje ...more
Ross Leavitt
May 27, 2015 Ross Leavitt rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book accomplished thoroughly what it set out to do: tell world history from after the Great War to the time of writing. It put periods I have read a lot about, like Europe before and during WWII, in a clearer context, and introduced me to too many subplots to even begin to remember. Some highlights:

The spread and effects of communism. The loss of life and general chaos were on a scale I never imagined. I knew it was bad, but to read the details of what happened in Russia, China, Cuba, and n
A grand thousand-page history - just the way I like em. Covers many interlocked subjects and discusses them all in an imaginative and brilliant style. Flows freely from one subject to the other, and includes miniature portraits of the towering figures of the time.

Be warned, this book was written in the latter part of the 20th century, and the author has a fiscal conservative view. Perhaps then it could be justified, as capitalism was at the time a lesser evil than totalitarianism - but now the e
Melissa McClintock
This is the book that got me interested in world history. It isn't dry, with a lot of tidbits thrown in.

He also has a "premise" woven throughout the book, that with the change from moral thinking to "relative" thinking, there was a huge shift in culture and history. Including wars etc.

However he isnt' heavy handed about his premise, and instead of being biased, he just points out a supporting fact periodically.

It's a book that made WORLD history real to me, instead of something full of dates
Sep 08, 2012 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never liked twentieth century history, but once I started this book, I gobbled it up. Johnson is a fantastic history-teller, with facts and wit and a sense of humor and of the importance of the human drama. He doesn't pretend to be "objective", if that means not making judgments or not caring about whether human actions are good or bad. He takes strong positions, frequently challenging liberal mythology, and supports them with many facts that allow the reader to begin making his own judgments. ...more
Erik Graff
May 22, 2013 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Johnson fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
What I liked most about this history was Johnson's description of how matters stood before "modern times", particularly his description of the prodigies of walking customarily performed by our ancestors. The rest of the book strongly conveys the sense that its author is very conservative--which indeed Johnson is, being both a Conservative British journalist and a believing Catholic. Although I find this occasionally off-putting, he is a very good writer and his books have generally been enjoyabl ...more
Nikolay Mollov
Само от първите няколко страници се усеща огромният размах, с който пише Пол Джонсън. Приемането на теорията за относителността на Айнщайн и идеите на Фройд оказват своето влияние върху всички аспекти на човешкия живот като се започне от политиката и изкуството. В литературата най-много това влияние се отразява чрез Марсел Пруст и Джеймс Джойс и епохалните им творби "По следите на изгубеното време" и "Одисей", които пускат своите плугове на влиянието след себе си...
Hank Hoeft
Paul Johnson’s analysis of modern history (in Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Eighties) is perceptive and cogent and very readable. His world view is strongly free-market and pro-individual freedom, so I personally appreciated and agreed with his conclusions, but readers who subscribe to a more collectivist world view and desire a world run by big government attempts at social engineering would find Johnson’s analysis less agreeable. The book is dense and meaty, and requires it ...more
Mark Casey
Jan 04, 2016 Mark Casey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This was a tour de force of 20th century history, with a focus on major political leaders, the forms of government they created, and how they treated their citizens.

It's a bit opinionated, which some people will like, and which others will dislike, saying "Johnson has a bias towards liberal democracies and free societies." On the other hand, to really cultivate an aura of pure objectivity and to prove every point made would have turned this 800-pager (which took me pretty much the projecte
JoséMaría BlancoWhite
If you thought the history of the world during the whole 20th century could not be told in about 800 pages, and told well, you were wrong. I, myself, was wrong. I haven't read from anybody with such capacity for pithiness and depth of analysis at the same time, and who can tell a story in such an easy-to-read way. It seems it took him no effort to get through, which obviously, for the amount of work and research put into it, cannot be so. You don't read this book, you soak it in. Starting before ...more
Paul Johnson is a great writer and incisive historian. He doesn't merely tell you what happened. He analyzes events, explains why they occurred, and even, at times, what may have happened otherwise.

His books do take some effort to get through. Long sentences, long paragraphs, long chapters - all with no breaks. Most books now are divided into two to three page segments, for easier and quicker reading, but this book defied that trend. But the reward is worth the struggle. Believe me, if you want
Steve Stegman
Jan 07, 2010 Steve Stegman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History Readers
Recommended to Steve by: Charlie Wingard
I just finished Modern Times as a part of my book club. Being a member of a book club has allowed me to read books, such as modern times, that I would regularly not read. The shear size of the book (almost 800 pages) appears overwhelming but will be beneficial to anyone wanting to understand the complexities of the modern world starting with Einstein's introduction of relativity to the end of the cold war.

I particularly found the time between WWI and WWII very interesting. This is a time in hist
Leanna Pohevitz
Though I admit that it is comprehensive and spans a wide variety of topics deftly, certain details were presented as fact when they were opinion. I was frustrated at how the author used his own opinion to gloss over unknowns. That being said it was extremely helpful in putting the stories of each region of the world in relation to one another. It also made fascinating compariaons throughout - for example he touches on how extremists have similarities even while some are viewed as evil and some a ...more
Rafa Sánchez
Jun 21, 2015 Rafa Sánchez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Una obra maestra, un prodigio de concisión y sabiduría para resumir en 600 páginas la historia del siglo XX, el peor siglo de la historia de la humanidad. El análisis de Johnson de las personalidades políticas que han destacado en los cinco continentes no deja títere con cabeza, en toda la obra se hace patente su desprecio por la ingeniería social, de todo tipo. Johnson sabe dar un punto de vista novedoso a toda la historia del horrible siglo XX, fijando los leit motivs que impregnan las ideolog ...more
Maynard Handley
Feb 07, 2016 Maynard Handley rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What's the cause of all the problems of the 20th Century (including Nazi Germany and wartime Japan)? Communism.
Who helped out the communists (sometimes willingly, often because they're stupid)? Democrats in the US, the Labor Party in the UK, intellectuals everywhere.
Who valiantly resisted these evil communists? Republicans in the US, Conservatives in the UK, few in lily-livered Europe, even fewer in the savage lands of Africa and Asia.

There, I've summarized the book for you and saved you reading
Jul 24, 2015 Tim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Johnson is a good writer of popular history; there is much here that is readable and informative. However, he also interjects his 19th century conservative English views into everything to the degree that I began to distrust his objectivity. An unabashed apologist for the British Empire, his views are so firmly right wing that his constant attempts to discredit any thought or action from the left become a little ridiculous. Thus we have the assertions that fascism is an offspring of Marxism, tha ...more
May 19, 2009 Jackie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
OK. It took me almost 2 years of reading this off and on to finish it. That is why I only gave it 3 stars when maybe it deserves 4. Highly recommended by my brother, who could probably read this in less than a week. I just don't have a head for history like he does. But this was very well written, and I learned so much that I didn't know before. Well worth it.
Nov 21, 2009 Michael rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you're into bullshit, read this book. According to Johnson, Calvin Coolidge was a great president and FDR was a screwball. Johnson is a complete and utter right wing moron. I hope he shares a room with Limbaugh and Beck in the nuthouse. If I could give it less than one star, I would.
Aug 18, 2012 Todd rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Paul Johnson is a historian to be read. Modern Times is about the 20th century. Ambitious? Absolutely. Successful? Completely. This is a thick book. It will take time to read. But read you should.
Jun 30, 2008 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Erin by: Morton Blackwell
A fabulous book. I first read this when I was an intern working in DC. I have re-read it many times. It reiterated to me the unanticipated consequences of government action.
Brian Eshleman

I'm tempted to give a fourth star for degree of difficulty, but I don't grade that way. My standard tends to be, did the author hold my attention for as long as he or she asked for it and do so with a coherent narrative? Since Paul Johnson takes on seven decades of extremely chaotic events, he has a significant challenge on his hands. His best attempt at providing a coherent theme, however, is more distracting than unifying. He takes frequent opportunities to insert that the scene in question is
Човешкият разум е "мъждукаща светлина", твърде слаба, за да дисциплинира една разпусната раса.

Изглежда това е изводът от ХХ век. Четейки книгата, човек не може да не се удиви от жестокостта, лицемерието и самозабравата на хората. И в крайна сметка да се съгласи с горното твърдение...

Другият удивителен момент е преплитането на множество теми и аспекти на историята - присъстват както типичните биографии, така и не толкова характерните конкретни цифри за производителността, БВП, образованието, прод
Jul 19, 2015 Bill rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Starts out strong but turns into Fox-news kind of screed at the end. I have read this book at least three times now and I am always impressed with Johnson's ability to synthesize a multitude of date and present a compelling story. He is an obvious champion of the "great man" school of history, citing Hitler, Stalin and Mao as negative examples, Churchill, Eisenhower and DeGaule (surprise) as positives. He also sides consistently with laissez-faire capitalism. It is his fixation on the importance ...more
Mar 20, 2014 Jim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, politics
Modern Times is a book of tremendous breadth and depth, with a subject matter that traces the world from the 1920's (but really, before that, delving into the origins and consequences of WWI)through to about 1991. The sheer density of the book indicates that it does not skimp on details, yet in covering such a vast subject (Johnson literally covers each major region of the world over the decades, though with a special focus on the participants in the world wars and the Cold War), he is compelled ...more
Paul Johnson’s broad-view approach to history, his highly engaging style, his vivid character portraits, original insights, and his ability to marshal mountains of data to support his arguments are all attractive characteristics of his work. That being said, his claims need to be treated cautiously. He is a highly talented writer, but he is also a haphazard scholar and a reactionary conservative with an extremely narrow vision, a habit of ignoring key parts of the historical narrative, and a pro ...more
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Paul Johnson works as a historian, journalist and author. He was educated at Stonyhurst School in Clitheroe, Lancashire and Magdalen College, Oxford, and first came to prominence in the 1950s as a journalist writing for, and later editing, the New Statesman magazine. He has also written for leading newspapers and magazines in Britain, the US and Europe.

Paul Johnson has published over 40 books incl
More about Paul Johnson...

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“A Stalin functionary admitted, "Innocent people were arrested: naturally - otherwise no one would be frightened. If people, he said, were arrested only for specific misdemeanours, all the others would feel safe and so become ripe for treason.” 6 likes
“In 1924 Mao took a Chinese friend, newly arrived from Europe, to see the notorious sign in the Shanghai park, 'Chinese and Dogs Not Allowed'.” 4 likes
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