Barbarism and Civilization: A History of Europe in Our Time

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Oxford University Press, 2007 - History - 901 pages
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"Here is the definitive history of contemporary Europe, a controversial but authoritative and lively narrative that is destined to become the standard account of the period from 1914 to the present. In this important new book, University of Chicago historian Bernard Wasserstein offers the first serious, full-length history of a century of convulsive change. It is a history of barbarism and civilization, of cruelty and tenderness, of technological achievement and environmental blight, of imperial expansion and withdrawal, of authoritarian repression and of individualism resurgent. Wasserstein provides both a narrative of the main contours of the political, diplomatic, and military history and an analysis of the underpinnings of demographic, economic, and social developments. Most notably, the book explores the evolution of values and sensibilities in a period when, for the first time, God disappeared as a living presence in the minds of most Europeans. Wasserstein argues that barbarism and civilization were not polar opposites: rather they marched hand in hand. Twentieth-century Europe saw incontestable improvements in living conditions for most inhabitants of the continent: average life span was extended by more than half; real incomes increased dramatically; illiteracy was all but eliminated; women, ethnic minorities, and homosexuals advanced closer to equality of respect and opportunity. Yet the century also witnessed some of the most brutish episodes in the recorded history of our species. Hence Wasserstein's conclusion that "greed, selfishness, lies, and cruelty are the stuff of the history of Europe in our time." Drawing on the latest scholarly findings,including recent disclosures of intelligence materials and archival revelations that followed the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, Wasserstein captures the essence of contemporary European history in an engaging narrative that is by turns grim, humorous, surprising, and enlightening." -- Publisher.

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About the author (2007)

Bernard Wasserstein was born in London in 1948 and educated at Balliol and Nuffield Colleges, Oxford. He has taught at Sheffield, Oxford, Glasgow, and Brandeis Universities and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Since 2003 he has been Harriet and Ulrich Meyer Professor of History at theUniversity of Chicago. His many previous books include Britain and the Jews of Europe 1939-1945 and The Secret Lives of Trebitsch Lincoln (which won the Golden Dagger Award for Non-Fiction from the Crime Writers' Association).

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