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How did the world of nation-states come about? What happened to the world of empires that preceded it? How did the transition take place and how inevitable was it? These may seem (and indeed are) old questions.
Work on the European revolutions of 1848 has rolled out at an accelerated rate since their 150th anniversary two decades ago. Much of this newer research has looked at previously unheralded social and cultural dimensions of the revolutionary conjuncture, but politics has remained, necessarily, at the centre of the literature.
For many of us, the ongoing carnage in Syria is a self-evident humanitarian crisis. We do not need to be convinced that the children drowning at sea, the women and men, young and old, begging for entry into any country that will accept them are worthy of our help.
‘No one knows what George Kennan really meant [to say]!’ So did the late McGeorge Bundy, my then professor, initiate me and a half a dozen other graduate students into mystery of George Frost Kennan. I say ‘mystery’ deliberately, as both at the time and later, there was indeed something distinctly odd about two aspects of the life and career of the one-time scholar-diplomat.
Histories of the Cold War have often, for obvious reasons, concentrated on the grand struggle between 'East and West', 'Communism and Capitalism', the 'USSR and the United States'.
I came to review this book with a great deal of anticipation. MacGregor Knox has been working for a long time on a comparative analysis of the fascist dictatorships, and is one of a line of US or US-trained historians who have breathed life into the recent study of contemporary European history by using a comparative approach.
Despite spurious claims being made in some quarters about 'a new consensus',(1) the history of fascism remains a bitterly contested area, even if, notwithstanding the Irving Trial, most contests occur in the seminar room rather than the courtroom.