Magazine article The Spectator

Books of the Year - RAYMOND CARR

Magazine article The Spectator

Books of the Year - RAYMOND CARR

Article excerpt

The most stimulating history book I have read this year is Niall Ferguson's The War of the World (Penguin, £25). Its subtitle, 'History's Age of Hatred', indicates its subject: the inhumanity of man to man, beginning with the shooting of prisoners in the Great War and ending with ethnic cleansing in Bosnia and Rwanda in what Isaiah Berlin called the most terrible century in European history. Only comparative history can make sense of the world we live in and Ferguson is a comparative historian on a world scale. Up to the 1950s the historian could read all the works cited in his footnotes. Now the vast output of histories of nations and empires and the emergence of economic and social history as independent disciplines make comparative history a factory enterprise with the workers under the management of a man of ideas.

Professor Wm. Roger Louis of Texas is a historian's historian. He combines in his Ends of British Imperialism (I. B. Tauris, £24.50) an incomparable mastery of his sources with the gift to make them come alive in his narrative of the final decline of Britian as a great power at Suez.

The most accomplished biography I have read is Max Egremont's Life of Siegfried Sassoon (Picador, £25). …

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