"Fascinating and immensely readable" is the way one British newspaper described A History in Fragments. With the rise of the European superpower-symbolized by the introduction of the euro on January 1, 2002-Europe has gained a new prominence on the world stage. But if you think that, in a changing world order, Europe is one area that we Americans have a grasp of-think again. The great stories of the century-the two world wars, the rise and fall of Nazism and Communism- are self-evident in their importance. But behind the politics and the ideologies lies another history: the history of forces that shaped the lives of individual Europeansâ€¦and the lives of men and women around the world. These are stories not only of politics and military movements, but also of culture, religion, sex, and demographics, related here with an unmatched eye for the telling detail and spiced with memorable anecdotes. As the U.K.'s prestigious Sunday Telegraph put it: "Vinen moves effortlessly from social and economic issues to politics, from ideology to military historyâ€¦The writing is lively, the enthusiasm infectious, and the gift for bold, epigrammatic summary genuinely impressive."
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A History in Fragments captures the sweep of an extraordinary century. Richard Vinen, a popular young London lecturer, traces Europe's tumultuous evolution from imperialism to democracy and cyberspace, "the new frontier." Rather than taking a political, cultural, or economic approach, Vinen combines all in a highly intelligent tour de force. He argues that the key to understanding 20th-century Europe is in its diversity, hence the book's title. Yet this does not do justice to the seamless way he ties together such overarching themes as the rise and fall of communism, the crumbling of social traditions, and total war. His command of vast quantities of material is awe- inspiring; his well-chosen anecdotes lively and right on the mark; his analyses pithy and easy to understand. For example, a simple comparison of the words "internationalism" as used by the communist camp and "globalization" as used by capitalists speaks volumes about the world view of the two ideologies. One of the book's many virtues is a refreshing objectivity. Conscious of his own prejudices as a middle-class British historian born in the 1960s, Vinen takes pains to see events from the viewpoints of those involved. A rather awkward section tucked before a chapter on post-war Europe presents striking photos and a short essay on the use and manipulation of images in the 20th century. Instead of a list of histories and biographies, the bibliography includes useful short critiques of reference material. A History in Fragments inspires both optimism and cynicism in the reader but never boredom. This is drama on the grandest scale and history-telling at its best. --John StevensonAbout the Author:
Richard Vinen, one of the most celebrated young historians writing today, lectures in history at King's College in London.
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