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Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (2005)

by Tony Judt

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,992454,522 (4.34)49
The first truly European history of contemporary Europe, from Lisbon to Leningrad, based on research in six languages, covering 34 countries across 60 years, using a great deal of material from newly available sources. The book integrates international relations, domestic politics, ideas, social change, economic development, and culture--high and low--into a single grand narrative. Every country has its chance to play the lead, and although the big themes are handled--including the cold war, the love/hate relationship with America, cultural and economic malaise and rebirth, and the myth and reality of unification--none of them is allowed to overshadow the rich pageant that is the whole.--From publisher description.… (more)
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English (37)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  Spanish (2)  Romanian (1)  Catalan (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (44)
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Took me forever to read. At least 70 years…quite an amazing book. Thorough, detailed, insightful. The journey from the moving of borders after WW1 to the mass moving of people post WW2, the fall of communism, the rise of Europe, the long denial of the holocaust and the defeat of fascism always tenuous (now sadly born out) just an amazing book. It could only take it in small chunks. Much of it does not stick in my porous brain. But what does. Wow.
  BookyMaven | Dec 6, 2023 |
If you ever wanted to understand today's Europe better, read this book. It is not a superficial history of postwar Western Europe, but covers all of Europe in some depth (as much as 900 pages will allow). Nor is it a simple political history, Judt covers cultural and social movements and changes as well.

But, beyond these things, the book is a joy to read. Judt is a wonderful writer with a sharp wit and deft wryness. Combined with his encyclopedic knowledge of European history, the resulting book is not one you will want to put down nor to end. ( )
  qaphsiel | Feb 20, 2023 |
Heillandi saga sem lýsir þróun evrópsks samfélags frá hörmungum síðari heimsstyrjaldarinnar allt til glímunnar við vandamál Evrópuþjóða í dag, kostnaður velferðarsamfélagsins, stækkun Evrópusambandsins o.fl. o.fl.
Judt var ekki einungis nákvæmur sagnfræðingur heldur fær penni og fjölfrjóður samfélagsrýnir sem gefur góða innsýn í vandamál Evrópu og þær ólíku leiðir sem þjóðirnar farið í leysa þau. Einn af kostum bókarinnar er hve víða er leitað fanga og Austur Evrópa skipar einnig stóran sess í þess í frásögninni. Nokkuð sem er oft fjarri í öðrum sagnfræðiritum. ( )
  SkuliSael | Apr 28, 2022 |
A historical coverage of Europe from after World War 2 to the early 2000s. It is a book that covers a vast amount of information and time. The information is mostly political, but it also covers culture and any main historical events. Since it covers all of Europe, it does jump around a lot between different countries or years. It is written really well, without any unnecessary fluff. It is definitely written in an education way, so there aren't any entertaining stories. Overall I enjoyed it, but it isn't an easy read at almost 1,000 pages long. ( )
  renbedell | Dec 15, 2021 |
> At the conclusion of the First World War it was borders that were invented and adjusted, while people were on the whole left in place. After 1945 what happened was rather the opposite: with one major exception boundaries stayed broadly intact and people were moved instead … The exception, as so often, was Poland. The geographical re-arrangement of Poland—losing 69,000 square miles of its eastern borderlands to the Soviet Union and being compensated with 40,000 square miles of rather better land from German territories east of the Oder-Neisse rivers—was dramatic … With certain exceptions, the outcome was a Europe of nation states more ethnically homogenous than ever before. The Soviet Union of course remained a multi-national empire.

> In Denmark the crime of collaboration was virtually unknown. Yet 374 out of every 100,000 Danes were sentenced to prison in post-war trials. In France, where wartime collaboration was widespread, it was for just that reason punished rather lightly. Since the state itself was the chief collaborator, it seemed harsh and more than a little divisive to charge lowly citizens with the same crime

> The Soviet presence at Nuremberg was the price paid for the wartime alliance and for the Red Army’s pre-eminent role in Hitler’s defeat. But the second shortcoming of the trials was inherent in the very nature of judicial process. Precisely because the personal guilt of the Nazi leadership, beginning with Hitler himself, was so fully and carefully established, many Germans felt licensed to believe that the rest of the nation was innocent

> On one thing, however, all were agreed—resisters and politicians alike: ‘planning’. The disasters of the inter-war decades—the missed opportunities after 1918, the great depression that followed the stock-market crash of 1929, the waste of unemployment, the inequalities, injustices and inefficiencies of laissez-faire capitalism that had led so many into authoritarian temptation, the brazen indifference of an arrogant ruling elite and the incompetence of an inadequate political class—all seemed to be connected by the utter failure to organize society better. If democracy was to work, if it was to recover its appeal, it would have to be planned.

> Secondly, the welfare states of western Europe were not politically divisive. They were socially re-distributive in general intent (some more than others) but not at all revolutionary—they did not ‘soak the rich’. On the contrary: although the greatest immediate advantage was felt by the poor, the real long-term beneficiaries were the professional and commercial middle class. In many cases they had not previously been eligible for work-related health, unemployment or retirement benefits

> In Italy, France and Belgium women finally secured the vote. In June 1946 the Italians voted to become a Republic, but the margin was narrow (12.7 million votes in favour of abolishing the monarchy, 10.7 million for retaining it) and the country’s historical divisions were if anything further exacerbated by the outcome: the South, except for the region of Basilicata, voted overwhelmingly for the king (by a ratio of 4:1 in Naples).

> February 1945. ‘Yalta’ has entered the lexicon of central European politics as a synonym for Western betrayal, the moment when the Western Allies sold out Poland and the other small states between Russia and Germany. But Yalta actually mattered little … The immediate cause of the division of Germany and Europe lies rather in Stalin’s own errors in these years. In central Europe, where he would have preferred a united Germany, weak and neutral, he squandered his advantage in 1945 and subsequent years by uncompromising rigidity and confrontational tactics. If Stalin’s hope had been to let Germany rot until the fruit of German resentment and hopelessness fell into his lap, then he miscalculated seriously

> All the Soviet Union needed to do was accept the Marshall Plan and convince a majority of the Germans of Moscow’s good faith in seeking a neutral, independent Germany. In 1947 this would radically have shifted the European balance of advantage.

> Looking back, it is somewhat ironic that after fighting a murderous war to reduce the power of an over-mighty Germany at the heart of the European continent, the victors should have proven so unable to agree on post-war arrangements to keep the German colossus down that they ended up dividing it between them in order to benefit separately from its restored strength.

> The apparent exception was of course Czechoslovakia. Many Czechs welcomed the Russians as liberators. Thanks to Munich they had few illusions about the Western powers and Edvard Benes’s London-based government-in-exile was the only one that made unambivalent overtures to Moscow well before 1945.

> Thanks to Prague, a significant part of the non-Communist Left in France, Italy and elsewhere would now firmly situate itself in the Western camp, a development that consigned Communist parties in countries beyond Soviet reach to isolation and growing impotence. If Stalin engineered the Prague coup without fully anticipating these consequences

> A typical French farmer produced food for five fellow Frenchmen; the American farmer was already producing at three times this rate. Forty years of war and economic depression had taken a heavy toll.

> The growing emphasis in US and Soviet strategic thinking on nuclear weapons, and the intercontinental missiles with which to deliver them, released European states from the need to compete in an arena where they could not hope to match the resources of the superpowers, even though central Europe remained the most likely terrain over which any future war might be fought.

> East Europeans experienced the events of 1956 as a distillation of cumulative disappointments. Their expectations of Communism, briefly renewed with the promise of de-Stalinization, were extinguished; but so were their hopes of Western succor. Whereas Khrushchev’s revelations about Stalin, or the hesitant moves to rehabilitate show-trial victims, had suggested up until then that Communism might yet contain within itself the seeds of renewal and liberation, after Hungary the dominant sentiment was one of cynical resignation.

> Precisely because the populations of Communist Eastern Europe were now quiescent, and the order of things restored, the Khrushchev-era Soviet leadership came in time to allow a limited degree of local liberalization—ironically enough, in Hungary above all. There, in the wake of his punitive retaliation against the insurgents of 1956 and their sympathizers, Kadar established the model ‘post-political’ Communist state. In return for their unquestioning acceptance of the Party’s monopoly of power and authority, Hungarians were allowed a strictly limited but genuine degree of freedom to produce and consume ( )
  breic | Jul 21, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 37 (next | show all)
Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (2005). Judt’s epic history of postwar Europe reviews the political, social, and economic forces that shaped the continent’s evolution in the aftermath of World War II. The distinctive feature of Postwar is that it tells the story on both sides of the Iron Curtain, highlighting how Europe was caught between two superpowers. Postwar was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and received CFR’s Arthur Ross Book Award in 2006.
 

» Add other authors (9 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Judt, TonyAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Cuéllar, JesúsTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dauzat, Pierre-EmmanuelTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
(Introduction)

« Toute époque est un sphinx qui plonge dans l’abîme sitôt l’énigme résolue. »

Heinrich Heine
(Introduction)

« Toute époque est un sphinx qui plonge dans l’abîme sitôt l’énigme résolue. »

Heinrich Heine
(Introduction)

« Les événements, mon cher, les événements. »

Harold Macmillan
(Introduction)

« L’histoire universelle n’est pas le lieu de la félicité.
Les périodes de bonheur y sont ses pages blanches. »

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
(I)
(L’Héritage de la guerre)

« Ce n’est pas une lente décadence que le monde européanisé a connue ; d’autres civilisations ont chancelé et se sont effondrées ; la civilisation européenne a été, pour ainsi dire, soufflée. »

H.G. Wells, War in the Air (1908)
Dedication
Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
/
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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to your language.
Préface et remerciements

L’Europe est le plus petit des continents. En vérité, elle n’est pas même un continent : un simple appendice sous-continental de l’Asie. L’Europe entière, à l’exclusion de la Russie et de la Turquie, comprend juste 5,5 millions de km2 : moins des deux tiers de la superficie du Brésil, à peine plus que la moitié de la Chine ou des États-Unis. [...]
Introduction

J’ai pris la décision d’écrire ce livre en changeant de train à la Westbahnhof, le principal terminus ferroviaire de Vienne. C’était en décembre 1989, un moment propice. Je rentrais de Prague, où les dramaturges et historiens du Forum civique de Václav Havel délogeaient un État policier communiste et jetaient dans les poubelles de l’histoire quarante années de « socialisme réellement existant ». [...]
PREMIÈRE PARTIE
Après-guerre : 1945-1953

L’Europe, au lendemain de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, offrait un tableau de misère et de désolation absolues. Les photographies et les documentaires de l’époque montrent de pitoyables flots de civils démunis se traînant à travers un paysage dévasté de villes éventrées et de champs stériles. [...]
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The first truly European history of contemporary Europe, from Lisbon to Leningrad, based on research in six languages, covering 34 countries across 60 years, using a great deal of material from newly available sources. The book integrates international relations, domestic politics, ideas, social change, economic development, and culture--high and low--into a single grand narrative. Every country has its chance to play the lead, and although the big themes are handled--including the cold war, the love/hate relationship with America, cultural and economic malaise and rebirth, and the myth and reality of unification--none of them is allowed to overshadow the rich pageant that is the whole.--From publisher description.

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