It ain't perfect, but there's no place we'd rather live. Jack's ready for the fireworks!
Despite the recent focus on work, I did finish a book: The War of the World by Niall Ferguson. It took a while; it is over 600 pages long before the footnotes start!
Amazon describes the book thus:
Astonishing in its scope and erudition, this is the magnum opus that Niall Ferguson's numerous acclaimed works have been leading up to. In it, he grapples with perhaps the most challenging questions of modern history: Why was the twentieth century history's bloodiest by far? Why did unprecedented material progress go hand in hand with total war and genocide? His quest for new answers takes him from the walls of Nanjing to the bloody beaches of Normandy, from the economics of ethnic cleansing to the politics of imperial decline and fall. The result, as brilliantly written as it is vital, is a great historian's masterwork.
Also from Amazon, a review, from Publisher's Weekly:
Why, if life was improving so rapidly for so many people at the dawn of the 20th century, were the next hundred years full of brutal conflict? Ferguson (Colossus) has a relatively simple answer: ethnic unrest is prone to break out during periods of economic volatility—booms as well as busts. When they take place in or near areas of imperial decline or transition, the unrest is more likely to escalate into full-scale conflict. This compelling theory is applicable to the Armenian genocide in Turkey, the slaughter of the Tutsis in Rwanda or the "ethnic cleansing" perpetrated against Bosnians, but the overwhelming majority of Ferguson's analysis is devoted to the two world wars and the fate of the Jews in Germany and eastern Europe. His richly informed analysis overturns many basic assumptions. For example, he argues that England's appeasement of Hitler in 1938 didn't lead to WWII, but was a misinformed response to a war that had started as early as 1935. But with Ferguson's claims about "the descent of the West" and the smaller wars in the latter half of the century tucked away into a comparatively brief epilogue, his thoughtful study falls short of its epic promise. (Sept. 25)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
The first chapter was a slog, but once the author's premise was established and the historical narrative began the slogging turned to pleasure. Well, "pleasure" may be a stretch since the subject matter is so unrelentingly grim. Some perspectives I found intriguing:
• The "War of the World" lasted from the turn of the 20th Century until the signing of the Korean Armistice in 1953, and what followed in its wake, the Cold War, could also be called the "Third World's War."
• World War 2 could have been averted had Britain and/or France attacked Germany preemptively in 1938 instead of embracing the policy of appeasement.
• Josef Stalin's Soviet Union was the single clear "winner" of World War 2.
There's a lot more; I learned a lot about the situations in Europe before World War 1 and in Asia before World War 2.