T. E. Vadney – The World Since 1945
February 13, 2011 Leave a comment
Broad histories of the recent past tend to start out focused, and then gradually degenerate into news-media like ADHD, leading us up to the “chaotic” present. So with T. E. Vadney’s The World Since 1945, which, having been published in three editions since 1987, has an unusually long such news-like section. And then this happened, and then this happened, and today it’s just all a big mess!
The early parts of the book, about the Cold War and the end of colonization, have their biases too. Vadney prefers to explain the actions of states by what is in their strategic interest, (“it was in their interest to” is used so often as to become a cliché), and less by their beliefs. I suspect he goes too far. But it’s all interesting and perceptive, clearly the result of this material having been pre-digested by several generations of historians before being summed up by Vadney.
As we reach the present (80’s and later), the digested analysis gives way to poorly written news cavalcades that wouldn’t be out of place in a Wikipedia entry. The bias becomes more clearly leftist – the election of Ronald Reagan is ascribed ominously to the rise of the “militant right”, and economic inequality of any sort is sternly admonished. What’s most annoying are the lazy, empty formulations, like summing up the Koreas in the 1990’s by saying that they both had “problems”.
But then, nobody gets recent history right. And I like the early part enough to forgive Vadney not achieving the impossible.