This large edited volume on the history of post-1945 Europe is one of the latest additions to the extensive and steadily growing series of Blackwell Companions to History, whose volumes cover a wide range of fields in British, European, American, and World history.
This review was written jointly with Dr Matthew Broad of the University of Reading.
After a period in which much historical attention has been directed to the rise of the early modern state, it now seems to be becoming fashionable to take the state out of the centre of the picture again.
Whatever the medievalists might say when they think you’re not listening, 20th-century European history is hard, and post-1945 history can be the trickiest bit. The decades after 1945 are much less precisely understood, in historical terms, than the decades before. They are more subject to unchallenged platitudes and uninformed controversy: they are surrounded by white noise.
‘If the Euro fails, Europe fails’, Angela Merkel boldly declared in September 2011; a potent reminder of how monetary integration lies at the heart of today’s European Union.(1) Yet the Eurozone has not been the first attempt at European monetary cooperation.
We have here two very different books utilizing two very different approaches to essentially the same period of history in Europe. And while the differences are enormous, each is excellent in its own way and both are major contributions to the historiography of Europe in the first half of the 20th century.
In the West, it can be easy to forget just how closely China and the USSR were once bound in political imaginations. Today, the USSR is a land to which there is no return: a figment of past dreams and nightmares – whereas China is on everyone’s mind, a growing economic power that has shed its socialist past to move to the forefront of the new capitalist order.
Until recently, Britain’s first referendum on its membership of the European Community (EC), the forerunner of today’s European Union (EU), had not exactly featured prominently in the nation’s collective memory: few people seem to have known that such a vote had ever taken place at all.
The biggest surprise in Austrian Reconstruction and the Collapse of Global Finance, 1921-1931 is how timely it is. Many of the same debates about global finance and its influence on the people of Austria, Swiss historian Nathan Marcus of the National Research University’s Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg writes, were remarkably similar to those of post-2008 Europe.