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Small Wars, Faraway Places: Global Insurrection and the Making of the Modern World, 1945-1965

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  334 ratings  ·  48 reviews
A sweeping history of the Cold War’s many "hot” wars born in the last gasps of empire 

The Cold War reigns in popular imagination as a period of tension between the two post-World War II superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, without direct conflict. Drawing from new archival research, prize-winning historian Michael Burleigh gives new meaning to the seminal
Hardcover, First Edition (U.S.), 587 pages
Published September 12th 2013 by Viking/Penguin Group (USA) Inc. (first published April 2013)
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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Kym Robinson
Sep 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: modern-military
One of the talents that Michael Burleigh possesses is an ability to carry his pen with a combination of knowledge and wit. It provides the reader with an informative narrative that keeps you yearning for more despite an already generous amount of information considering the vastness of the subject and the limitations of the books modest size.

I found that this book was a splendid overview showing the origins of blowback and reality that exists across the globe today so many decades on. At times B
Jan 05, 2013 rated it liked it
In this sly and readable book, Burleigh examines the strategic and political context of the years 1945-1965, years notable for wars big and small, most of which can be traced to the end of the second world war. He provides anecdotal portraits of all the major players involved in this turbulent era, and is rather critical of all of them (Eisenhower comes off the lightest). Despite this, however, the book is rather balanced, and both Western and insurgent leaders receive a fair share of criticism. ...more
James Murphy
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was impressed by Burleigh's history. The small wars he writes about--Korea, the Arab-Israeli Wars, the Malaya and Mau Mau Emergencies, the Huk Rebellion in the Philippines, French Indochina, Hungary, Suez, India'a wars with Pakistan and China, Algeria, Cuba, and Vietnam--are all, with a couple of exceptions, familiar. But Burleigh writes about them so engagingly they have new lives. He writes so anecdotally and with such sharp, analytic insight that he makes it fun to revisit the individual hi ...more
Michael Burleigh's "Small Wars, Faraway Places: Global Insurrection and the Making of the World, 1945-1965," is a fascinating history on some of the post-WWII era conflicts that engulfed the planet. Burleigh focuses on conflicts in Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Algeria, Kenya, DRC, Palestine and Cuba as well as briefs on Ghana and Guinea, China and the Japanese forces in WWII. As you can see, this is book is epic in scale, and covers these conflicts in great political detail. The backgroun ...more
Oct 04, 2018 rated it did not like it
The number of factual errors in the first 20 pages alone is astounding. The author gets wrong the name of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere, two of three Kim leaders of North Korea, and the fact that Manchuria was a Japanese puppet state, not directly “conquered.” If he gets that much wrong about things I have a passing knowledge of, what about the other sections? I just can’t trust any of the information here.

This is not even to go into the author’s self-professed admiration of wester
Jul 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent book, mainly by virtue of the subject matter and Burleigh’s marshalling of it into a coherent narrative. I learned so much I didn’t know, particularly about the breakup of the empires, and often felt that this was a book that everyone should read, as this recent history is so relevant for the current world but is relatively little known. The book covers a dizzying array of conflicts around the world, and in so doing also covers the first half of the Cold War and the fall of ...more
Benjamin Eskola
Jan 13, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
In short: this is a dreadful book.

There is, of course, no such thing as an unbiased work of history, and the most biased authors are generally those who think they’re unbiased but are instead just blind to their own preconceptions. Burleigh, despite (or because of) his claim to have ‘little ideological and even less nostalgic investment in the events described’, displays a deep-seated antipathy for anyone who could remotely be described as left-wing. While it’s true that he’s not outright defend
Apr 04, 2015 rated it liked it
"Small Wars, Faraway Places" is a highly readable and informative book with an importance that is undercut at most every turn by the author's condescending attitude.

The idea of writing an engaging book about the military conflicts that erupted around the world during a span of approximately 20 years is a timely one for several reasons. First, the fallout from some of these conflicts still troubles the world (e.g., the fraught relationship with Iran, the lack of resolution to the Korean War, the
The American Conservative
"Small wars that roiled distant places over the 20 years after 1945 highlight the difficulty of maintaining political order amid deeper cultural and social upheavals. Understanding complex situations, particularly when they involved different cultures, presented difficulties Western leaders rarely overcame. Intervention all too often entailed a costly struggle or made outside powers the means to self-interested ends sought by local groups.

Burleigh’s analysis underlines the limits of what outsid
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Excellent, engaging history of the Post-WW2 world that emerged from the far-flung European empires as they collapsed. Burleigh deftly flits from place to place, drawing comparisons and contrasts between the various insurgencies and nationalist movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Alongside this, he examines the growing involvement of the US in "liberal imperialism" (the US of course, did not see its actions that way). While not engaging in what he terms "advocacy history", Burleigh does ...more
Dec 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
After reading this book, I have a much clearer understanding of all the foreign news stories I read/heard/watched while growing up in the 1950s and 1960s. And, thanks to the author's razor-sharp skewers of most of the politicians, statements, revolutionaries and crooks who were involved in the events, I have a much better sense of why they happened. A wonderfully well-written book which should be read by everyone. ...more
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is almost an alternative modern history of Britain, with tales of operations by UK forces that most people will never have heard of. Michael Burleigh writes in a very engaging way, providing lots of information but without taking away from the story telling.
Aug 06, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was a challenge for me. I end up focusing on Middle East pieces . This book is rich with details and make you go back to past and live the experience.
Andras Szalai
DNF at 30%. Colonial apologism at is purest.
But I guess if you want a right-wing reading of the small wars of the Cold War...
Nov 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
A fascinating read about world events during the first twenty years of my life plus forays into the future. Now I must read more of this authors books.
Sep 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In retrospect it seems inevitable that the European powers would lose their grip on their colonial possessions after the conclusion of the Second World War. But at the time there were many in Europe who saw it as far from a natural process and often as undesirable. "Small Wars, Far Away Places" tells the extraordinary story of the period from 1945 to 1965 when the European empires fell. In chapters loosely based around territories (Korea, Malaya, Suez, Kenya, Cuba, Vietnam among others), he show ...more
Sep 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Talk about a dense book. But how else can you summarize the 20 years following WWII? I learned a lot about the ugly end of European colonialism and the not-so-pretty American attempts to expand its influence in the aftermath of WWII and the beginning of the Cold War. The major theme among Britain, France, and USA is that they usually didn't understand the people they were trying to conquer; fissures among the occupied populations were often mischaracterized, or missed altogether. The capabilitie ...more
Oct 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received this book through a Goodreads First Reads giveaway.

I have fairly eclectic interests and entered this giveaway because this book sonded interesting. It was, but it was also a struggle to read. This really is intended for acadenics or people with a strong interest in the topic. There were a lot of names dropped and references to historical events that were not expanded upon because it was obviously assumed the reader had some prior knowledge of the people/events. While many of the names
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really like Michael Burleigh. He writes about violence and political violence in particular. This book covers the start of the Cold War and no one is covered in glory. Most are covered in cruelty, failure, misguided efforts and sorrow. We all now about the horrors of Vietnam, but how about the terrors of Partition, the Malayan Emergency, Algeria, Korea, Iran, Guatemala and others?

Too many of these books focus on the terrible moral cost the US incurred in its attempt to beat the Soviets. This
Raza Syed
Mar 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book tackles the post WW 2 conflicts till end of The Vietnam War. This is a well researched and well organized book. That time period in the world's history was a very dynamic era.
The Axis had been defeated, the old imperial empires (French, British, Dutch) were unravelling, the New Bipolar world was a reality, Cold War had just began. If all this wasn't enough, almost all the colonies were rising up against their imperial masters.
I had a general understanding of most of these events but th
Feb 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
British historian Michael Burleigh surveys the several "small" wars the U.S. and European colonial powers fought from the end of World War Two to Vietnam. These includes both the well-known (Israel, Korea, Cuba and Vietnam) and the more obscure, at least to Americans, such as Malaysia, Philippines, Kenya and Congo. Throughout all of these examples, the general failure and casual brutality of a imperialist approach to international relations is made evident. Of course, in this time period, many o ...more
Michael Samerdyke
Mar 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is a very readable book that does a fine job of showing how post-World War II decolonization and the Cold War reinforced each other. Burleigh takes us from 1945 to 1965 and shows us the many conflicts of the era, including several most Americans are not familiar with (such as the Algerian war for independence and the Huk uprising in the Philippines.)

Burleigh writes in a very clear style and often made me think of A. J. P. Taylor in the level of his writing. Burleigh is not shy about express
wow. one of the best and most interesting books I have ever read.

It is written from a British view, so there were some new views for me to read about America and her reactions to the chaos of the era. The book covers the wars that took place from 1945 (the end of WWII) and 1965 (Vietnam). There was a lot of detail about the characters involved and how each fight played out in the growing narrative of The Cold War and the "battle against communism"

There was a lot of information in these pages, ye
Stuart Kinross
Apr 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very entertaining and informative account of the West's withdrawal from Empire in the aftermath of the Second World War that is placed in the wider context of the Cold War. Burleigh therefore not only covers the conflicts in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, but also analyses the foreign policies of both superpowers during the early decades of the Cold War. Small Wars is a very well written account that combines expert analysis with some shrewd observations of the personalities who shaped the ...more
Blaine Morrow
Unique overview of the many small wars and conflicts that followed WWII in small, faraway places; Malay, Korea, India and Pakistan, Congo, Kenya, Guatemala, Cuba, and many others, ending with the Vietnamese conflict. The author provides history mixed with character studies and political commentary, making this an interesting read and one that has no parallel in histories of the time period (1945-1965). I was disappointed in the book's conclusion, which seemed abrupt and failed to provide the kin ...more
Michael Spring
Aug 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
If you like your historians quietly judicious, smiling in the background from behind a large bookcase, then perhaps Michael Burleigh isn't for you. If, on the other hand, you like them ballsy, leading with the chin on virtually every page and getting away with it because of incredible dexterity, then you really have to read this book. Tells you everything you need to know about the post-war world from the revolution in China to Vietnam, with Malaya, Kenya, and a whole lot of other stuff thrown i ...more
Amry Saja
Got to honestly said Michael did have different angle of writing about history.
quite tough read for me but the content is very deep..I am still enjoyed it
We got different angle of The world war 2 story from the eye of third world country who fought regional or small war after the fall of berlin
We also realize that The war is not always about heroic and supreme power hegemony of US or Soviet but from these books I am learning of the link between war that happened in 1940 with political problem of
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Burleigh's 'Small Wars...' is a comprehensive history of the Cold Wars colonial violence... in Asia, Africa and the Americas. A strongly written, and highly depressing, read, it slams to a halt with Johnson's escalation in Vietnam.

One imagines the author throwing his hands up in disgust at the history he had to review and write. History repeats ever more rapidly, and so does tragedy.

This is am important read for any modern historian, or reader filling in the gaps in their historical knowledge.

Oct 22, 2013 rated it liked it
Disclosure: I won this book through Goodreads' giveaway program.

This is a well written, fascinating book. It's astounding how the effects of the disintegration of colonialism and empire are still shaking the world today. I enjoyed learning about conflicts that are so rarely well covered, if they're discussed at all! If you're interested in the subject matter, I'd definitely recommend this work to anyone.
Bill Ashe
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
I learned a lot from this book. It's easy to get lost in the particulars of the many "small wars" that made up the Cold War, and this book does a great job of connecting and presenting them in the broad landscape of the social and political conflicts of the time. And what horrible wars they were. When people say we live in a violent and depressing time I'd point them to this book. We live in a paradise compare to the 50s and 60s. ...more
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Michael Burleigh is a British author and historian.
In 1977 Michael Burleigh took a first class honours degree in Medieval and Modern History at University College London, winning the Pollard, Dolley and Sir William Mayer prizes. After a PhD in medieval history in 1982, he went on to hold posts at New College, Oxford, the London School of Economics, and Cardiff where he was Distinguished Research P

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