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Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  9,394 ratings  ·  726 reviews
Almost a decade in the making, this much-anticipated grand history of postwar Europe from one of the world's most esteemed historians and intellectuals is a singular achievement. Postwar is the first modern history that covers all of Europe, both east and west, drawing on research in six languages to sweep readers through thirty-four nations and sixty years of political an ...more
Paperback, 933 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Penguin Books (first published October 6th 2005)
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Roy Lotz
History is a discipline peculiarly impervious to high theoretical speculation: the more Theory intrudes, the farther History recedes.

When I was in university, studying anthropology, I always resented the requirement that my essays have thesis statements. Can’t I just collect information and serve it up without taking some ultimate stance? Tony Judt seems to have been of the same mind, since this book is one very large serving of information, absent of any overarching thesis. As he says himse
...more
Szplug
Aug 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is history writ large done to perfection. Judt has compressed a lifetime of study and exploration of European cultural memes into this masterwork, one which abounds with erudition, penetrating analysis, and wise reflection. Judt states in his introduction that he hoped to produce a work that might compare favorably with that of the historians he had read and enjoyed, such as Eric Hosbsbawn. Speaking as one who has read the latter's brilliant tetralogy that runs from the French Revolution to ...more
Jan-Maat
A history of Europe from 1945 up to 2005, readable, interesting and puts a lot in context.

For Judt Europe ends where North Africa, Turkey and Russia begin, so everywhere in between gets some coverage. The coverage given to eastern Europe contrasts with the situation in the west - an advantage which earlier pre-1989 histories can't offer.

In retrospect the treatment of the immediate post war years stands out as particularly good - but this may be due to their inherent drama. There are lots of po
...more
Will Ansbacher
What an absolutely outstanding book. I don’t think I have ever enjoyed reading history so much - there were some nights I read till after 1 because I couldn’t put it down. This is the story of Europe since the end of WW2, a seemingly dry topic if ever there was one, so what is it that makes the book so compelling? Well, it feels as if it is all here, every significant event for the whole period presented in so balanced a way that the weight given to each just “feels right”. Reading Postwar is li ...more
Jim
Dec 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, economics
I was born in 1945 and lived through everything that Tony Judt writes about in Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, but from a slightly different perspective. I was a Hungarian born in the United States, in Cleveland, which along Buckeye Road was fully as Hungarian as that ancient capital on the Duna. From my youth, I was surrounded by stories about Hungary, about the little farm in Felcsut that was "taken away from us" by the Communists.

Europe was always very near to me, even though it was
...more
Marc
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: holocaust, history, europe
This book is a real 'tour de force': incredibly balanced in its width, accurate in its general outlines and details, critical and lucid. Judt brings a reasonably classic political narrative of European history, but adds it with many socio-economic data and elements on mentality. All well supported by statistics, examples and quotations.

The whole book also has a personal stamp: an at times explicit nostalgic yearning to the time social democracy improved so many things in Europe, for so many peo
...more
Michael Kotsarinis
Astonishing!

I know that this book has already received enough praise but it is very well deserved indeed.
It is a detailed and vivid tour of Europe from the end of World War II to 2005. Using the political, social, economic and cultural events and their perspectives the author managed to construct an elegant and convincing narrative that makes the sequence of events that shaped postwar Europe a coherent read.

I can only recommend it to everyone who is (or considers oneself) European, it will be a
...more
Michael
May 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I have often referred to this book as a great act of hubris and an uncommon realization of the author's ambition. The sheer audacity in enclosing a continent's history over 60 years in one spine is staggering and only pales in comparison to the striking amount of detail and context Judt provides his readers. In many ways Postwar is the ultimate starting point for anyone who seeks to enhance their postwar history chops, in other ways Judt provides a perfect condensation of thousands of postwar te ...more
fourtriplezed
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, europe
What an outstanding history book. Postwar probably covered the events and issues as well as I can imagine considering the massive scope of the subject. Well written, informative, thoughtful and maybe as good an attempt at being even handed as I can think of. Highly recommended.
Max
Feb 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: european-history
Postwar is a masterful presentation; comprehensive and detailed without losing focus. Judt fits together the pieces of European history from the fall of Nazi Germany to the fall of the Soviet Union. He goes on to describe the new Europe that ensued and its challenges. He creates the sense of flow of history usually found in the more distant past. For those focused on topical interests such as WWII, the cold war, economic or social history, this book can provide context. To cover so much in one v ...more
Anthony
Aug 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I managed to get through my entire undergraduate and graduate studies in history without having ever read a single book by Tony Judt. I have read some of his essays over the years, however, and they always struck me as pragmatic and apolitical. Other than his controversial positions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, Judt, an ex-Marxist and fervent Social Democrat, is a believer in being "objective" (a term he is surprisingly critical of in the introduction to Postwar). While he admires past g ...more
Geoff
Jun 05, 2012 marked it as to-read
Been meaning to read this for years. Now seems a more auspicious time than ever.
Anna
Oct 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
‘Postwar’ is one of those books that merits the term magisterial. It certainly demands commitment from the reader. A mere glance conveys its length, but I didn’t notice until I began reading that the text is also in an unusually small font. Thus my usual reading speed was much reduced, provoking the usual fears of forgetting how to read properly, brain decay, etc. The time it demands is nonetheless richly rewarded. Judt is a consummate synoptic writer. He covers a vast amount of ground and comma ...more
Elena
Jun 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Despite the title "A History of Europe since 1945," the late Tony Judt's 2005 book covers more than Europe and more than post 1945. In the avalanche of historical facts, Judt identifies a pattern of growing intolerance in the postwar world, and he's actually talking about post World War I. Where once different ethnic groups lived together in uneasy but workable ways, from 1914 on that pragmatic tolerance has been evaporating and ethnic strife has been increasing, even today when we should know b ...more
Joseph Stieb
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
I think this is on just about everyone "to-read" list, but thanks to Coronavirus, I read it. Took about 2 weeks of pretty consistent reading because this book is mass-ive. Still, it is worth it as a way to excavate (I think that's a better word for this book than "survey") a huge amount of history from a first-class historian in a relatively efficient way. In place of an in-depth review (this book really has themes more than arguments), I'm just going to reflect on a few pieces.

This book's great
...more
Matthew
Nov 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This book is filling a gap in my knowledge so large that I cannot believe I never realised it was there. It seems to touch on so many things; it delivers the events, yes, but more interestingly it jumps from political commentary to economics to aesthetic and social theory to intellectual history. It is my first book on general European history, so I can't really critique the content, except to say I feel like I've been brought a long way. Above all I think it is a political history, delving -- s ...more
Patrick Brown
Aug 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
How does one review a book like this? It's like trying to review the sun. It's huge, everything revolves around it, and there times when it seems to fill up the sky.

Postwar is absolutely monumental. Not only is it a tremendous work of scholarship, but it also has a really great sense of humor. Judt throws shade on everyone from Marxists to ex-Nazis to the Sex Pistols to David Beckham. All of that and I learned a bunch of new words (autarkic! propitious! adumbrated!).

Why are you reading this re
...more
Bookmarks Magazine

The unassuming, almost provocatively direct title belies an almost 1,000-page exhaustive survey of European history since the end of World War II. Yet this book isn't meant just to look impressive on the bookshelf; Judt is an astute thinker and polished writer who brings extensive cultural knowledge about film, music, and literature to bear on his daunting subjects: the Holocaust, the Stalinized East, the tide-changing 1960s, the implosion of the Iron Curtain, the policies of the European Union,

...more
Lazarus P Badpenny Esq
May 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Good Europeans, bad Europeans, and those with short memories
A veritable Mont Blanc of a book in both scale and scope that successfully synthesizes the political, economic, social, and cultural developments in Europe following the Second World War. No doubt I shall be returning to its component parts for some time to come. The Epilogue concerning evolving postwar attitudes to Holocaust culpability was equally illuminating.
Eleni
Oct 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
“By the end of the twentieth century the centrality of the Holocaust in Western European identity and memory seemed secure” .

Even if memory remains somewhat… asymmetrical across European nations, even if this book was completed, ironically, just a few years before the fiscal crisis kicked off – which means that the much appraised postwar recovery doesn’t register as an economic miracle in individual conscience anymore, and rightly so – Europe, as we know it today, is still a phenomenal achiev
...more
Murtaza
Jan 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: best-of-2017
Europe's present era of political and economic stability has extended so long that few are alive who remember a different time in that continent's history. But prior to 1945, warfare, oppression and chaos - along with imperial largesse and ethnic diversity - were the historical norm for European societies. The twin calamities of World War I and World War II put an end to that old Europe once and for all. Out of the unfathomable death and destruction of these episodes an entirely new Europe was c ...more
Frank Stein
Mar 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book deserves the seemingly inordinate praise that's been heaped upon it. It takes something that seems familiar and relatively stable, the Postwar European welfare states (and, for awhile, their Communist counterparts), and demonstrates them to be strange and conflicted and filled with surprising people and places. I don't think I'll look at Europe, or modern politics, the same again.

Although never stated as such, the book shows that Europe had to reckon with two major ideas after World Wa
...more
Ken Hammond
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great read found out a lot about why Europe is the way it is. Chapters of one country at a time with all sorts of information on each. I enjoyed it.
Marks54
Mar 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I have read a lot of history books and this is a really good one - although a bit long at 830 pages. There were several specific benefits that appealed to me. 1) It is good on the immediate postwar period and how that shifted into the Cold War. 2) It is very informative on continuities between pre and post war Europe, both east and west. 3) Judt also brings up a number of areas that were not clear when they began and only became taken for granted later -- such as the acceptance of a divided Germ ...more
Leonard Pierce
Feb 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
There are very few books that deserve the kind of reputation that "Postwar" has, but this one is considered a masterpiece for a reason. Judt was a brilliant historian, observer, and synthesizer of complex political movements, and this is his greatest work. Taking up immediately after the end of World War II, the book takes an astonishingly broad view of the post-war world, and though it focuses generally on the struggle between the Soviet satellites and the western world, and specifically on Eur ...more
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
Second reading of Judt's Postwar. Judt gives a very detailed history of Europe reconstruction out of the ashes of WWII into a prosperous western and an east subdued by the Soviets both sides under the shadow of Superpower politics. Judt spends more time on developments inside the continent the cold war confrontation is veiw as an overlay to the inside story of European development over these decades while important to the narrative it is one of many things going on in postwar Europe. Judt spends ...more
Charles J
Aug 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
“Postwar," by the late Tony Judt, is the type of book for which the term “magisterial” might have been invented. Judt takes an enormous amount of information and condenses it down to a manageable narrative, not in the service of some overarching thesis, but simply to communicate the basic history of the period (namely, from World War Two until early 2005). He is even-handed and insightful. The only problem, though, is that today’s reader finds it hard to care about this period. Viewed from the p ...more
Craig Werner
All the standard superlatives risk sounding a bit flat--cover blurb speak rather than real praise. Nonetheless, Judt's Postwar is brilliant, magisterial, definitive, choose your own adjective. My appreciation for it is increased by two factors that set it off from the other five star history books I've read in recent years. First, the book assembled a whole lot of fragments of information and analysis I'd been carrying around into a coherent picture. Second, I learned a lot about how to put toge ...more
Shoti
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What India After Gandhi: The History of the World's Largest Democracy is to India that is Postwar by Tony Judt to Europe: a grand history of the 2nd half of the 20th century. Judt maintains an admirably impartial balance between Eastern and Western Europe while describing their once diverging, once converging trajectories. This book is a great help to fill in gaps in knowledge of the era and Judt exposes numerous intriguing cause and effect relations. I wish the narrative had not stopped at 2005 ...more
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Born in 1948, Tony Judt was raised in the East End of London by a mother whose parents had immigrated from Russia and a Belgian father who descended from a line of Lithuanian rabbis. Judt was educated at Emanuel School, before receiving a BA (1969) and PhD (1972) in history from the University of Cambridge.

Like many other Jewish parents living in postwar Europe, his mother and father were secular,
...more

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