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Reflections on a Ravaged Century

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  163 ratings  ·  17 reviews
Robert Conquest has been called by Paul Johnson "our greatest living modern historian." As a new century begins, Conquest offers an illuminating examination of our past failures and a guide to where we should go next. Graced with one of the most acute gifts for political prescience since Orwell, Conquest assigns responsibility for our century’s cataclysms not to impersonal ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 17th 2001 by W. W. Norton Company (first published 1999)
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3.79  · 
Rating details
 ·  163 ratings  ·  17 reviews


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Art
Jun 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
Though the book came out in 2000, it remains more relevant today as we go through a shift in political temperament and direction.
Michael Connolly
Feb 17, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed, revisit
Sidney and Beatrice Webb were leaders of the British Fabian Society and founders of the London School of Economics. The Fabian Society believed in combining socialism and democracy, taking a position between Communism and free-market capitalism. The Fabians believed that academics and intellectuals were wiser than businessmen, and so should have a substantial role in guiding the economy. The Fabians also played a major role in the British Labour Party. During the 1930s, the Webbs wrote a positiv ...more
Kelly
Apr 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
More of a commentary on the effects of the major events (WWII and the Cold War) and the ideologies behind them than a survey of them - not the book to read unless you are somewhat familiar with the basic facts of these events already. Part One was more interesting, and I appreciated the more humane, narrative/reflective approach (as opposed to a facts and figures approach) that Conquest uses to describe Cold War events and ideas. Part Two dragged at times but some of Conquest’s thoughts on cultu ...more
Jarvis Johnson
Aug 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
This book was handed to me after asking a colleague why scholars and academicians still have faith in ideologies like Marxism/communism, in light of their failures in the 20th century. Conquest, known for his detailing of the Stalin-era Soviet Union, addresses this attraction. He points out how facts have been largely ignored by scholars, in favor of theory and the possibilities of the "Idea" working. The first part of the book focuses on the history of 'revolutionaries,' and specifically, how t ...more
ELB
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
REFLECTIONS ON A RAVAGED CENTURY by Robert Conquest

I’ve copied a few lines from the first few chapters of this book. I found it interesting but a slow read. Didn’t agree with everything but still thought provoking.

Scarcely formulated fanaticisms and closed systems of ideas are, to be found throughout the past. (Ignorance of history is one of the most negative attributes of modern man.) The basic characteristic and attraction was and is the archaic idea that utopia can be constructed on earth; th
...more
Julien
Nov 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
The historian and poet who first documented Stalin's Great Purge offers his thoughts on the ideological frenzies of the twentieth century, their nature and causes and their many destructive effects. The second half, which is meant to give an idea of where we are headed in the twenty-first century is, understandably, less specific and thus less satisfying, but still intriguing, especially for Conquest's thoughts on the rise, or resurgence, of corporatism and the future of the nations that make up ...more
An Idler
Aug 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Insightful overview of the ideologies and utopian dreams that lead mankind into bloodshed during the 20th century, as well as a prescient anticipation of the issues to come. Blunts its force at the end with speculation of an Anglosphere that is more pipe dream than sober proposal.
Saurabh
Jun 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Robert Conquest is an expert in one field (Soviet communism). The problem is he thinks he is an expert in a lot of things. Among other things, he advocates for (the equivalent of) Brexit, defends imperialism, denies climate change, and maybe least but not last, tells youth to get off his lawn.

His technique is usually the same: start off with a set in stone opinion, and cherrypick quotes that agree with it. He's quite well read so no dearth of that. Dissenting voices do not get a mention (except
...more
Seth Augenstein
Mar 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: alright
Conquest knows his stuff, and some of this book is downright prophetic (e.g. warnings of Brexit and other developments from 2016). But the book wanders rhetorically, and starts to become a polemic against Stalinism, and then pivots into random musings for an international alliance of former British colonies. Overall, underwhelming.
Shane Hill
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Just a really solid read...chock full of some very interesting anecdotes.....
Marks54
Oct 14, 2014 rated it liked it
This is a series of essays on European history and politics by a British Historian who has written extensively on Russia and the Soviet regime. Robert Conquest is a conservative and rationalist scholar. I first read his "Harvest of Sorrow", which makes the case for Stalin using famine as an ideological weapon that killed millions of his own people in the Ukraine during the 1930s. He makes sharp judgements and provides strong arguments. The essays in the book are organized around the task of taki ...more
Leonardo Etcheto
Sep 25, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: rationalists, atheits, ideaists
Fascinating, but for me also a reflection of how dated the big Ideas of the early 20th century truly seem today. The propensity for self deception is ofcourse great, but communism is now basically a joke. Its incredible past power and continuing hold on some minds shows the incredible need for all to find "something" to believe in. Especially interesting is how intelligentsia was always a dirty word, and with reason. I found the last two chapters on the EU really interesting, because Conquest ex ...more
ferrigno
Sep 18, 2012 rated it liked it
Un libro a tratti insopportabile, provocatorio, fazioso. Tuttavia se affrontato con spirito critico aiuta molto a rompere con il pensiero forte novecentesco. Un libro su quella che Vattimo chiama la "violenza della metafisica".

Ah, su una cosa ci ha azzeccato: sulla fragilità dell'unione europea, "costruita per motivi ideologici". Tuttavia è palese: gli è andata di culo, perché prevede la crisi ma non le sue cause. Anzi, al contrario: l'Europa tiene perché tutti sono fermamente (ideologicamente?
...more
Dean Vincent
The distinguished and prolific historian combines his considerable knowledge of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany in an analytical treatise on how radical "ideas" can, and were, failures on a grand scale. The reification of the abstracts "Marxism" and "National Socialism" into working, material practice, caused nearly incomprehensible social catastrophe.
Antonia
Feb 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Ever read a history book you could NOT put down? This one! Conquest's keen discernment of our recent past provides him, and thankfully us, a near-prescient vision forward. What a pleasure to read!
Yvan Defoy
Jul 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
A conservative manifesto by the one-time advisor and speech writer to Margaret Thatcher.
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George Robert Ackworth Conquest was a British historian who became a well known writer and researcher on the Soviet Union with the publication, in 1968, of his account of Stalin's purges of the 1930s, The Great Terror.
“To congratulate oneself on one's warm commitment to the environment, or to peace, or to the oppressed, and think no more is a profound moral fault.” 10 likes
“As is now generally admitted, a Soviet bomb would not have been achieved for several years more but for the success of Soviet espionage in obtaining secret information from Western scientists associated with the Manhattan Project. That is to say, political ideas in the minds of certain capable physicists and others took the form of believing that to provide Stalin with the bomb was a
contribution to world progress. They were wrong. And their decisions show, once again, that minds of high quality in other respects are not immune to political or ideological delirium....In the Soviet case, those involved thought they knew better than mere politicians like Churchill. They didn't.”
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