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Response to Review no. 67

I am indebted to Professor Pearson for his thoughtful and entertaining review of my book and do not want to add very much to what he says. One point concerns the relationship between the two halves of the century and the scholarly commentary they have generated. I would not at all like to give the impression that I believe ‘real’ history ends in 1945. On the contrary, one of my aims in writing Dark Continent was to try to see the postwar period in historical perspective. As someone who has derived pleasure from teaching contemporary history at Sussex, I have no problems granting the subject ‘unqualified academic respectability.’ The authorial problem is somewhat different: because historians have tended to leave the post-1945 world to social scientists, the feel and approach of the scholarly literature on post-1945 Europe is quite different from that of earlier periods, and this poses special problems for the would-be synthesizer. Lines of historical debate and terms of enquiry are ill-defined, non-existent or simply unrecognisable. I was especially conscious when writing about the post-1945 world of being in a rather new field, something which is not generally true for the Second World War or anything preceding it.

As for darkness and light, I entirely agree with the reviewer that the second half of the century is a less gloomy affair than the first. Perhaps only a history of the century as a whole can make this point with any force, another reason for writing such histories, foolish or woefully premature as they may appear to some. If my title helps stimulate such sweeping reflections then it will turn out not to have been entirely beside the point.