Tony Judt (1948-2010) created a masterpiece with his history of Europe, Post War, published in 2005.
Though now twelve years old, I couldn’t recommend this book more highly; it should be compulsory reading for everyone who is interested in the society in which we live.
Judt sets out in this massive enterprise to tell the history of Europe (both east and west) from 1945. The book is both thematically and chronologically organised. While the focus is on political, and to a lesser extent economic, history, Judt also covers culture and especially film in some detail, all of which helps give the reader an all-round understanding of period and place. Judt’s approach is not to dryly list facts and dates, but to link events into meaningful narratives.
The great advantage of Judt’s book is that it enables reader to set his or her historical prejudices against Judt’s erudite judgments. As Judt says so much in this book, there will be times when you think his assessments are wrong, but often you will be convinced by his argument. Being persuaded is also a matter of perspective. Most English readers will have become politically and socially aware in the Wilson to Blair years, and Judt enables us to conceptualise and comprehend the period as a whole, not just as British history, but also as a part of a wider European canvass.
The writing is sharp and engaging throughout. The only disadvantage of the book is the weight of its 890 pages which make it hard to read in bed.
Judt, Tony: Post War: Heinemann 2005