Friday, January 16, 2015

Gilbert’s History of the Twentieth Century, v. 3: 1952-1999

History of the 20th century

What a find!  I was browsing the shelves at Volunteers of American on Henderson Rd. today and found this title by the prolific, incredible British writer, Martin Gilbert. Now I’ll have to watch for the other volumes.

“Sir Martin John Gilbert is a British historian and Fellow of Merton College, University of Oxford. He is the author of over eighty books, including works on the Holocaust and Jewish history. Gilbert is a leading historian of the modern world, and is known as the official biographer of Sir Winston Churchill.”

I first came across him reading “Letters to Auntie Fori: The 5,000-Year History of the Jewish People and Their Faith.”  He met Auntie in 1958 through his college friend who was Indian and over the years became her “adopted nephew.”  When she was 90 she revealed to him that she was actually a Hungarian Jew, but knew nothing about her heritage or that religion.  Thus began a series of letters to Auntie explaining her heritage. It is probably the most interesting way to learn Jewish history.

He presents Jewish history as the narrative expression–the timeline–of the Jewish faith, and the faith as it is informed by the history. Starting with Adam and Eve, he then brings us to Abraham and his descendants, who worshiped a God who repeatedly, and often dramatically, intervened in their lives. The stories of Genesis and Exodus lead seamlessly on to those of the eras when the land was ruled by the Israelite kings and then by Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome–the Biblical and post-Biblical periods. In Sir Martin’s hands, these stories are rich in incident and achievement. He then traces the long history of the Jews in the Diaspora, ending with an unexpected visit to an outpost of Jewry in Anchorage, Alaska. (Good reads)

However, the book I bought is the third volume (very big)  in a set about the 20th century, most of my life time, and it seems odd to see the events I remember, like the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the assassination attempt on President Reagan written in to history.

Martin Gilbert's three-volume history of the century continues with an enthralling narrative that documents the attempts to preserve human values, to maintain the rule of law, and to uphold the rights and dignity of the individual. Gilbert shows how the conflicts of nations and the aspirations of their rulers served both to threaten humankind through war and civil war, in many regions of the globe, and to create a fairer and more fulfilling life for hundreds, even thousands, of millions of people.For more than four decades, the United States and the Soviet Union--joint victors in the struggle against Germany and Japan--struggled to establish the primacy of their respective systems, while the specter of nuclear war threatened to become a terrible reality.

Here are gripping narrative accounts of the wars in Korea, Vietnam, and Bosnia; the postwar reconstruction of Europe; apartheid; the arms race; the moon landing ; and  the extraordinary advances in medical science.  Mao started a cultural revolution, Martin Luther King, Jr., and John F. Kennedy were assassinated, and the computer revolution was begun.  The result is nothing less than extraordinary. (Amazon)

I wish reading were easy for me; I certainly have some wonderful books on my office shelves I haven’t read.

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