A wide-ranging, utterly absorbing history of our times. With an ironic nod to political correctness, Reynolds (Rich Relations: The American Occupation of Britain, 1942—1945, 1994, etc.) owns up to being a —white, middle-aged Englishman— whose —limited and personal view— of the recent past is open to argument. It would take a careful scholar, however, to gainsay Reynolds, a Cambridge University historian who packs an astonishing wealth of information into this whopper of a book. Moving easily from fact to fact, Reynolds looks into the political upheavals, demographic transformations, technological advances, and cultural forces that have shaped the world since the end of WWII—and shaped it, he reckons, in ways that press the planet away from unity and amity, toward ever-increasing fragmentation. The reigning divisions of the last few decades, Reynolds writes, are many. One is the widening not of the East-West division of old, but of the North-South moieties of rich and poor nations. Another division, more pervasive still, is what Reynolds describes as —the attempt to relate territorial boundaries to global and religious groupings——to make states and nations one and the same thing. Yet another is the insistence of human beings on differentiating themselves by matters of belief, religion, skin color, and class. Through it all, Reynolds is a jet-setter of a narrator, taking readers from the Kremlin to Zimbabwe, from the Great Wall to Antarctica, to chase down examples of human brilliance (the development of the standardized transoceanic shipping container, to name one oddly fascinating case) and human folly (the rise of so-called creation science in the face of the new physics and cosmology and the old logic). The past half century has been volatile, unpredictable, bloody, and unsettling. Reynolds’s account attempts to make sense of it all—and does so exceedingly well.