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The Return of History: Conflict, Migration, and Geopolitics in the Twenty-First Century

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  208 Ratings  ·  29 Reviews
#1 National Bestseller

Part of the CBC Massey Lectures series

In 1989, as the Berlin Wall crumbled and the Cold War dissipated, the American political commentator Francis Fukuyama wrote a famous essay, entitled “The End of History.” Fukuyama argued that the demise of confrontation between Communism and capitalism, and the expansion of Western liberal democracy, signalled the
Hardcover, 360 pages
Published September 17th 2016 by House of Anansi Press
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A good introduction to what ails us.

The 2016 book version of CBC Radio's annual lecture series, the Massey Lectures, is a well written, competent analysis of issues currently faced by liberal democracies.

'The Return of History' by Jennifer Welsh is a very timely analysis of our modern world. In particular, she looks at the current state of the Western liberal democracies and waves a warning flag of distress. Welsh identifies and analyses a number factors which she sees as indicators of the cur
Ian Robertson
Nov 09, 2016 rated it it was ok
Since 1961, the Massey Lectures – an annual fall talk on a philosophical, economic or cultural issue which is broadcast on Canada’s CBC Radio – have edified and entertained listeners, and for those who purchase the resultant book, readers too. In the 2016 lecture, professor of International Relations Jennifer Welsh responds to Francis Fukuyama’s 1989 essay and 1992 book “The End of History and the Last Man”. Unfortunately, her response is off target. Most of the book is just a recounting of rece ...more
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it
This Massey Lecture was overall quite interesting, though at times I found myself on my knees begging for some critical analysis. For example: "Instead, the contemporary era is marked more by a clash of values — between the West’s championing of open elections, freedom of expression and movement, and the rule of law, and Russia’s hybrid version of democracy, with an oligarchic governance structure and limits on individual freedoms, in exchange for economic growth. The Russian model, with its emp ...more
Cameron Mitchell
Sep 01, 2017 rated it did not like it
The premise of the book is flawed to begin with. Is a rebuttle of "The End of History" really necessary? Does Fukuyama exist as anything more than a joke for undergrads anyway? Have you been following current events for the past twenty five years? Great, you can probably skip this one. Most of the book is recap, and the conclusions Welsh reaches aren't worth the time it takes to get to them. The chapter on Russia is relatively insightful, owing to the author's background in international relatio ...more
Lucas Johnston
Aug 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
I wouldn’t call this book bad, it is certainly full of interesting anecdotes and good arguments. However, reading it as a work of philosophy and evaluating it as such, much of the book is just superfluous. The actual critical engagement with Fukuyama’s ideas could likely be condensed down considerably aside from the historical stories she presents.
Dec 29, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: politics
So we're heading back to an older world with great power politics, inequality, and human suffering.

But I wonder if Jennifer Welsh would have done better to take the much longer view (à la Piketty) and position this change as being waaaaay back to the future? Instead we hovered around the beginning of the twentieth century a bit too much.

That would have set her up to talk about the last half-century as historical exception and really go for our return into history.
Allister Mason
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
This title of this book is a reference to the 1989 essay by Francis Fukuyama "The End of History?" which was written during the collapse of the USSR and explored whether the collapse meant that liberal democracies were now the final form of human governments and would be how we organize ourselves till the end of days.

As you can get from the title the author argues that, in fact, no, this is not the case and other forms of more authoritative governments can/will arise and there are signs that lib
Matthew Lloyd
In the multiple Star Trek television series, Starfleet and the Federation of Planets develops a code of conduct for its members who find themselves displaced in time – the Temporal Prime Directive. The aim of this Directive is to prevent damage to the timeline and history from being altered, which can frequently result in the erasure of the semi-utopian future in which they live. I’m not usually a fan of time-travel narratives, but I like the point behind the Temporal Prime Directive: the future ...more
Good summary of broad historical trends leading up to the 21st century. With exception of citing examples of Latin America and the Middle East in early chapters, this book is largely eurocentric in its critic of 'liberal democracy' (but to be fair Welsh did seem to have framed it as a critic of the complacency of WESTERN liberal democracies).

If you are familiar with major events in current affairs in recent years, upon which she bases her main 'return to history' thesis and illustrates at great
The 2016 Massey Lecturer, Jennifer Welsh, seeks to challenge Francis Fukuyama's assertion that the "end of history" came with the end of the Cold War, and the end to ideological disputes around the world. She argues that far from an end to history, what we are witnessing in 2016 is the return of history; a return of barbarism, inequality, the Cold War, mass flight, and inequality. Although I feel she relies on a sensationalist view of instability in the world, her lectures are interesting and in ...more
Daniel Kukwa
Aug 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Anyone with even a half-hearted interest in the history and politics of the post-cold war era will find most of the content in this book very familiar. However, there's nothing like having a clear-cut, well-written, concise, useful primer on the state of affairs of the early 21s century to refer to and use when needed...and this history teacher can already see numerous opportunities to use this lovely resource in the future.
Jul 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An amazing book, that challenges your understanding of what is happening in the world, how we got here and pushes you to see the need for change. Written a couple years ago, it explains accurately, what we are seeing around the world. I’m in awe of how Jennifer Welsh seemed to understand where we were going.
David Marriott
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best Massey Lectures in recent years. Dr. Welsh offers thoughtful insights into the causes of the current state of the world. In the face of so much biased and shallow reporting in the news media, Dr. Welsh's perspective is refreshing and welcome.
Terry Tucker

I gave up on this book when I got to chapter 3. Regrettably, if one wants a sense of where we are historically and geopolitically, then I suggest Huntington's Clash of Civilizations and Strauss and Howe's the Fourth Turning. This book is not very readable.
Kathleen McRae
Sep 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is a good analysis of current political scenes in the world and the events that may have activated or influenced them.
Don Bennie
Apr 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Good insights of today - but less conclusive than expected.
Paul Gibson
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Just finished a very good, well written book by Jennifer Welsh, The Return of History. Although the book is about complex topics, the 12 point type, 1.5 line spacing and wide margins make it physically easy to read while making its 300ish pages seem about half as long. If you are concerned and/or perplexed about how the world has gotten where much of it is at so early into this 21st century, this is a readable history of high water marks that come from the perspective of support for liberal (rea ...more
Jan 26, 2017 rated it liked it
Based on CBC's 2016 Massey Lectures, this book explains why Francis Fukuyama's thesis in his 1989 "The End of History", (the idea that with the collapse of the Berlin wall and other world events 'opening borders' etc., the world was making democratic and other types of progress)needs to be revisited. Each night's original lecture, and thus each fleshed out chapter, covers a different topic and compares the statements made in 1989 to current (2016) events: global security and barbarism(humanitari ...more
Barbara McVeigh
Oct 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Four and a half stars

I have to admit, I had some trouble getting into the first two essays, but the book picks up power and speed with the last three: The Return of Mass Flight; The Return of the Cold War; and The Return of Inequality. Jennifer Welsh clearly explains the times we are living in. Scary. The coming American election has become all that more important in my eyes.

Vital reading to fix the cracks in our liberal democracies.

Listen to the Massey Lectures on CBC Radio's Ideas from Mon Oc
Emily Ross
I received a free copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Provides a good narrative of Western liberal democracy and the growing disillusionment and the move away from them within the West, noting especially the crisis regarding Syrian asylum seekers and immigrants.
Furthermore, it is tied to Fukuyama's theory quite well, noting how countries caught up in conflict are "mired in history" and explaining how the theory could be viewed in the present day.
However, the book is quite slow paced
Zheluo Cai
Nov 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
A macro-level of the changing trends in international terrorism, migration, the populist political ascendency, geopolitics, and economic inequality, makes this a stimulating read. Jennifer Welsh, a Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General, brings us an erudite analysis of world affairs right up-to-date. Her last chapter is perhaps the crux of the book where she handled the bane of social ills resulting from income and capital inequalities created by our political leaders' conscious political ...more
Nov 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Jennifer Welsh joins the ranks of Canadians such as Northrop Frye, Marshall McCluhan, John Ralston Saul--even Jim Carrey--who have the unique Canadian ability enabling them to stand apart as they make unique commentaries on their social, political and cultural world. They are close enough to see Jonah being swallowed by the whale, but they escape unscathed save for their notepads to record the event.
Jg Paul
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Probably the most timely book I have ever read. Welsh has her finger on various geopolitical, historical, economic, and ideological pulses of our current moment. Want to have a much clearer picture of the world in 2016 and better understanding why everything feels so anxious, so fragile? Read this book.
It's brilliant and essential.
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
The printed version of this year's Massey Lectures. A response to Fukuyama's The End of History. Much has happened since the fall of the Berlin Wall and not much of it good. Chapters devoted to the return of: barbarism; mass flight; cold war and inequality.

Very well written. Worthwhile for anyone interested in current events.
Dec 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
A highly accessible, sweeping "big picture" assessment of the world we find ourselves in at this point in history. A "not so fast" response to Fukuyama's overly optimistic 2006 book "The End of History".
Dec 28, 2016 marked it as to-read
Won't be able to finish this book first time around, but worth the read. Will re-request at library. Did that, had to review from the beginning although I have read some of the other chapters. Have to return it agai, will re-request later in the summer and finish.
James Smith
Nov 26, 2016 rated it liked it
Very helpful, almost journalistic, overview of global realities of barbarism, mass migration, and Putin's Russia. But Welsh's editorializing and thin prescriptions are almost sophomoric.
Sep 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A great read. I highly recommend this new book. For those whoa re interested, the Massey Lectures will be broadcast on CBC during the first week of November. I look forward to hearing them in audio!
joan keefler
rated it it was amazing
Jun 16, 2018
Richard Cawker
rated it really liked it
May 30, 2018
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