THE STRUGGLE FOR EUROPE by William I. Hitchcock


The Turbulent History of a Divided Continent, 1945-2002


A lucid, highly readable survey of modern European history.

World War II cost the European nations as many as 40 million people—a figure that, writes Hitchcock (History/Wellesley), translates to 18,500 deaths each day between 1939 and 1945. Yet, he notes with the detachment of a trained realpolitiker, that vicious bloodletting “had in the long run a positive effect on the European economy,” inasmuch as all the destruction forced a modernization and reconstruction of nearly every aspect of society—and, as well, the establishment of political institutions that would encourage economic growth and social stability, institutions that eventually combined in the European Union. The political reorganization attendant in this change was profound, Hitchcock observes, though in many respects incomplete; countless former Nazis, fascists, and Stalinists, for example, turned up in post–WWII and post–Cold War positions of authority across the continent, and their presence may account at least in part for what Hitchcock calls “the basic conservatism of European politics” today. Europe’s golden age, as Hitchcock sees it, was the 1950s, “a decade of unprecedented material comfort, opportunity, and genuine liberty”—at least in the nations west of the Iron Curtain—“after so many years of harrowing fear and privation.” It’s not as if things have gone downhill since, Hitchcock allows, but subsequent European history has been marked by economic dislocation, episodes of social upheaval, bouts of genocide in the Balkans, and, perhaps most intractable of all, deeply ingrained racism: “The good news is that the majority of Europeans are tolerant of ethnic, cultural, and religious diversity,” Hitchcock writes. “The bad news is that the number of those who are intolerant is large, and growing.”

Scholarly without being tedious, a sturdy companion to Richard Vinen’s A History in Fragments and other recent revisionist views of the Cold War.

Pub Date: Jan. 21st, 2003
ISBN: 0-385-49798-9
Page count: 528pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2002