After a brief discussion about the meaning of 'modern' history, Michael Howard presents a fascinating analysis of the history of the 20th Century- laying much emphasis on the USA, where the author has spent much time as a Professor at Yale. It was Michael Howard who brought the study of military history into the mainstream of historical research and his readers will expect this as an emphasis in his analysis. They will expect less about suffragettes, human rights and the role of women. Howard`s concern is substantially with the role of the military in the developing story of the twentieth century. At the beginning of the twentieth century, nostalgia for a lost past seems to have permeated the whole of European culture. This was the time of bucolic idylls of English musicians and poets of the Edwardian age with revivals of folk music and yearning for blue remembered hills. But thirteen million men died in the First World War and an entire world died with them. By then only rational, bureaucratic, effectively modernized states could fight such wars, with weapons designed to inflict maximum destruction . The tone for a new century was set. For if the old order died with the First World War, something else far more powerful and sinister was born, the 'rough beast' of Yeats' apocalyptic poem, that was to dominates Europe for the rest of the century. In spite of the peace of 1945, it remains alive and flourishing in many parts of the world. Such in part is the thesis of this powerfully argued book but its sub themes are skilfully interwoven and propounded.
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