Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties” as Want to Read:
Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties

4.27  ·  Rating Details ·  1,859 Ratings  ·  143 Reviews
Originally published in 1983 and named one of the Best Books of the Year by the New York Times, this bestselling history is now revised and updated and includes a new final chapter.
Paperback, Revised Edition, 870 pages
Published June 1st 1992 by HarperPerennial (first published 1983)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Modern Times, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Modern Times

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Loring Wirbel
Nov 02, 2011 Loring Wirbel rated it liked it
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
Jul 01, 2014 carl theaker rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
Jun 28, 2008 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
Carol Storm
Jun 14, 2011 Carol Storm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tory historian wishes the modern world would just go away!

This is one of the most brilliant, readable, and exciting history books I have ever read. Paul Johnson does a worldwide survey of the wars and upheavals of the 20th century, covering whole continents in alternating chapters. With thrilling scope, he goes from tribal wars in Africa to the defeat of Germany to the rise of Hitler to militarism in Japan, and then back to Prohibition in the USA, Roosevelt and the New Deal . . . all the time co
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
Ross Leavitt
Apr 20, 2014 Ross Leavitt rated it really liked it
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
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
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
Apr 20, 2010 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...
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
Tim Casteel
Apr 02, 2017 Tim Casteel rated it really liked it
Thoroughly enjoyed this book. I want to read everything by this author. He has such an unbelievable grasp on an amazing amount of topics. He truly gives a thorough education on the twentieth century. I listened to it on audiobook. Probably would have been better to read but worked fine as audiobook. I probably just missed some of the more profound, difficult ideas which leads me to my only issue w the book.

My only knock on the book - the author fails, at times, to communicate his profound ideas
Mark Casey
Jan 03, 2016 Mark Casey rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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
Leanna Pohevitz
Jun 13, 2016 Leanna Pohevitz rated it liked it
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
Dec 10, 2014 Rafa Sánchez rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favoritos
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
Dec 08, 2008 Jackie rated it liked it
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.
Adrian Colesberry
This was the first historical book I ever read that wasn't assigned by a teacher. I felt so grown up reading through this book. It's based on an interesting take on modernity: when it started in particular. It is in no way an alternative history. It's very much concerned with politics and wars, but I was a young boy and that was just fine with me.
Nov 21, 2009 Michael rated it did not like it
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.
Jul 08, 2012 Jpp rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A totaly useless book. Far from the facts, always giving one side and simple version of all the main events of the century, it looks more like a neo-cons 101 manual than like an actual history book.
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
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.
Lucian McMahon
Mar 16, 2017 Lucian McMahon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Johnson may have fallen into imprecision at times. Some of his conclusions seemed rather improbable. And his post-WWII analysis was too cursory by half and probably merited another whole 734 pages itself. But overall, this was a good read. A tight narrative arc that, if combined with other tonics like Scott's Seeing Like a State or Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism or even, maybe, Muggeridge, shows the lie in so many 20th century pieties that don't seem to ever want to disappear.

The human sto
Kirk Mahoney
May 14, 2017 Kirk Mahoney rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Readers of this book on a Kindle device should note that the chapters end at 78%. Still, this book is very long. I started reading it 53 weeks ago, and it was only because of a vacation cruise that I was able to go from 50% to 78% (the end) last week.

One of my favorite parts was the story about how Pope John Paul II and Ronald Reagan bonded over their near loss of life following assassination attempts ... and how those two plus Margaret Thatcher bonded to fight Communism.

One of the biggest takea
Mar 22, 2017 Groot rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nonfiction
Typical of the author, another riveting, endlessly interesting, highly readable history book, this time of the world between the nineteen-teens through the seventies. More a political history than a scientific one, the 20th century stands out for the horror, terror and bloodthirstiness of socialism, in all its manifestations, including Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, etc. Better have a strong stomach to get through this tome.
Jim Swike
A very good history book. It is hard when there is such a time range, to not appear as a time line. This book groups time periods based on a topic. I recommend it as a very good reference book.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Witness
  • Above Top Secret: Uncover the Mysteries of the Digital Age
  • Migrations and Cultures: A World View
  • The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community
  • Give Me Liberty!: An American History, Volume 2
  • The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West
  • The New Penguin History of The World
  • The Cold War: A History
  • The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot
  • 60 Greatest Conspiracies Of All Time - History's Biggest Mysteries, Cover-ups, And Cabals
  • Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey
  • The Hinge of Fate (The Second World War, #4)
  • The David Icke Guide to the Global Conspiracy: And How to End It
  • The Glory and the Dream: A Narrative History of America 1932-72
  • The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory
  • From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life, 1500 to the Present
  • The Seventies: The Great Shift In American Culture, Society, And Politics
  • The Age of Napoleon (The Story of Civilization, #11)
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...

Share This Book

“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
More quotes…