Juan-Pablo's Reviews > Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

Postwar by Tony Judt
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Aug 08, 2011

it was amazing
Read in October, 2010

This is an ambitious book. It's also an impassioned account of the last 60 years of European History. Judt discloses in his Introduction that his is an "opinionated" book, and that's what I usually expect from a good history book. Historians that shield themselves in objectivity display boring and usually uninteresting accounts. The most impressive feature (and related to the former) of this work are its insights. One of the reviews says that there are insights in almost every (of the 900) page. I found that to be only a slight exaggeration.

Tony Judt covers an impressive amount of history in this book without getting lost in the details that would make its reading forgettable. One of the basic "subplots" is , of course, the arch of Eastern European Communism. The narration of it's rise, fall and demise and its interaction with the West in the Cold War context is extremely well accomplished. The other (and related) subplot is Western European Welfare State. The differences, advantages and disadvantages compared to the American system permeate the whole book, and it's one of Judt's most impassioned topics. One can agree or not with the author, but his is an interesting analysis specially in the current European climate. The causes of a European Union and its future are another topic of great interest. Some reviews have mention some factual errors. I found that to be the case, but they can be treated as "typos" and they don't really affect the analysis.

The science and culture coverage is not complete. This in understandable in a book that covers an extensive period of time, but it's good to point the omissions here. Other reviewers have pointed out the missing information on science, which is true. The coverage on music is only marginal, and only for the decade of The Sixties. The book focuses mostly on literature and movies. There's great coverage on french intellectuals (one of Judt's areas of expertise) and a lot of movies references across the book. I found these really useful to "follow up" on some topics.

Most of the historical perspective is narrated with an "insight into the future", that is, events are analyzed not from its local perspective, but from the awareness that knowing the outcome (during our present) gives us. The Epilogue, which brings this type of narration full circle, is a little masterpiece on it's own. It's a (poetic and social) summary of the whole Post-War European History, and also a justification of the type of history the author think is really valuable.
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