Monday, January 25, 2016

1946: The Making of the Modern World (Victor Sebestyen)

1946: The Making Of The Modern World by Victor Sebestyen provides a play-by-play of the events of the first full year after the end of World War II.  The year was action-packed, full of international drama from an unsettled Europe to an emerging Cold War showdown between the United States and the Soviet Union.  Sebestyen does a very effective job capturing the year in context of a radically changing political landscape.

One of the best features of the book is Sebestyen's occasional, but poignant, use of footnotes within the book.  Whether it was to portray an individual's eccentricities in a greater context or to refer the reader to an additional author and their work related to a specific 1946-related event, the footnotes added tremendous value and were used wisely throughout the book.

Sebestyen captures the emerging political landscape in 1946 by weaving in past context where appropriate, showing how decisions made by global leaders were scrutinized and how the world went from being united against Fascism to being divided between democracy and communism as the two major political systems that governed the world for nearly forty years.

The 380-page book is well-sourced and a fast read.  Sebestyen should be applauded for not just recapping the year but for his ability to weave in the personalities of Stalin, Truman, Churchill, Attlee, and other global leaders to provide context in how and why events of that year played out.  Given how much change has taken place in our recent times, it's important to point out that the mid 1940's provided even more rapid change and instability.  The author illustrates that quite well in his book.