To the historically myopic -- and that describes most of us --Europe is the ""old"" center of world rule. Yet of the nations that, in 1900, were arbiters of the destinies of most of earth's territory, few ""could boast even a century of political unity."" And there was less than half a century to go before all of them went down in a heap and two new giants stepped into the arena: the United States and Russia. An Oxford don and research assistant on Randolph Churchill's biography of his father, Martin Gilbert tells his tale of 45 fateful years with economy and a supple style that permits him to move from dancehall lyrics to an Olympian view of military and political maneuvers and never miss a beat. From the Boxer uprising to NATO and the ""miracle"" of West Germany is an eventful journey, if not a long in one historically, and while there are bound to be objections to various inclusions or deletions, yet he has done an excellent job of clarification without oversimplification. He has also let blame fall indiscriminately on ""friends"" and ""foes"" alike, and if there is any moral to his story of how ""Europe led, shocked, and wounded the world,"" it is neither a simple nor a partisan one.