MixedThe Wall Street JournalAll this is presented in fluent and accessible prose, and Ms. Mac Sweeney skillfully blends analysis, erudition and anecdote. Inevitably, in a book of this scope, there are some misfires ... Oddly, Ms. Mac Sweeney doesn’t really address the emergence of the West as a political concept. Surprisingly, she says little about the importance of Athenian democracy or about the broad movement toward wider participation that created so much of what we now regard as characteristic of the West.
PositiveWall Street JournalEngrossing ... The book has a thesis too—that naval warfare played a crucial role in (to quote the subtitle) \'the transformation of the global order.\' No one is better positioned to make such a case than Mr. Kennedy, the doyen of the study of historical geopolitics ... It should be said that Mr. Kennedy’s treatment of the Eastern Front, though typically shrewd, rests on a debatable claim. He accepts the view that Hitler, in 1941-45, concentrated on the war with Stalin, starving Germany’s naval and air capacities in favor of land warfare in Russia. In fact, the German war economy most of that time was directed against the Anglo-Americans ... For all the heroism of individual naval encounters, Mr. Kennedy convincingly shows that World War II was won, ultimately, by superior American industrial capacity.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalThis thesis is not entirely new—it has been advanced by a school of thought that asserts the primacy of foreign policy in political affairs—but the way in which Ms. Colley tells the story is both absorbing and innovative. Her selection of case studies allows her to bring in a wide range of \'terrains and voices,\' as she puts it. They span centuries as well as continents and cultures, and they vary in size from the incipient colossus of the United States to the tiny Pacific island of Pitcairn ... A particular strength of The Gun, the Ship, and the Pen is the way in which Ms. Colley weaves in fascinating facts and vignettes ... There is some over-claiming ... There is also a fair amount of contextual information, such as the Tokyo streetscape at the promulgation of the 1889 constitution, that reads interestingly but doesn’t really advance the argument. The space might have been put to better use to fill some of the gaps in the analysis: They are inevitable in a book of this kind ... The worst that Ms. Colley’s critics can say, therefore, is that her argument is even stronger than she makes it.
RaveThe Irish Times (IRE)It is...a breath of fresh air to read Robert Gerwarth’s authoritative new account, which is the latest product of a vibrant Dublin research hub on modern European history ... This is a compact, lean book, about a third of which is the copious annotation backing up the author’s claims. He still finds space, though, for some remarkable pen portraits of the principal characters, and well as telling anecdotes ... One wonders then what the fair wind for Weimar tells us about the federal republic today? ... This is, of course, a question the author is not obliged to answer. For now, Gerwarth has already done us enough service by rescuing the Weimar Republic from what EP Thompson, in another context, called \'the enormous condescension of posterity.\'
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... a superb biographical portrait and work of historical analysis ... The author’s picture of the Holy Roman Empire, it should be said, is too positive. Far from seeing the Empire as a model, the Founding Fathers regarded it as a cautionary tale ... Overall, Mr. Siemann’s Metternich is the most comprehensive, absorbing and authoritative biography of the man we have, defying the stereotypes that usually adhere to him. Let us hope that it will serve if not as a manual then at least as an inspiration—good statesmanship is needed more than ever.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalNo man is better qualified to offer up such judgments than Mr. Stahel, whose work on the first six months or so of the Russian campaign dominates the field ... if the earlier volumes were written as conventional academic military history, this one has much more color and vivid detail and is written as a pacey narrative, with analytical \'glades\' appearing now and then to allow the reader to stand back and assess the bigger picture. The result is an engaging, fine-grained account of an epic struggle, one that restores contingency and perspective to a battle that has been mythologized for too long ... Mr. Stahel describes these days brilliantly, switching among various levels of command while reminding us of the experiences of the soldiers on the ground and the civilians caught up in the Nazi \'war of annihilation\' ... Mr. Stahel’s argument is well-made and generally convincing but not compelling in every respect. The wider framing of the war is sometimes problematic. For example, far from underestimating America’s military potential, as Mr. Stahel claims, Hitler had long been in awe of it. Indeed, the U.S. was Hitler’s principal preoccupation during the first half of December 1941. There is also an inherent difficulty in judging Soviet performance without more use of Russian sources. (The vast majority of the author’s material is drawn from the German side.) Finally, it is hard to be sure whether Hitler’s stand-fast order was justified or not. His fear that even minor retreat might spark a rout was certainly widely shared by commanders at the time. But even if his readers do not follow Mr. Stahel all the way to every conclusion, they will surely be thankful to him for taking a fresh look at a crucial series of battles about which we wrongly thought we already knew everything there was to know.
A. N. Wilson
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal... engrossing ... Mr. Wilson makes good use of documents from the period and has consulted experts, particularly on details having to do with Albert’s German background. His most striking contribution, though, is a psychologically astute approach to Victoria and Albert, one that results in a persuasive and humane account of their marriage.
MixedThe Wall Street Journal... goes well beyond the personal, drawing on a vast amount of reading and research ... Mr. Diamond tries to be systematic throughout, interrogating his case studies according to a list of criteria that, he believes, support a comparison across cultures and centuries. But his approach is also idiosyncratic and eclectic, with fascinating details and stories offered up along the way ... plenty of food for thought and many provocative speculations. Mr. Diamond is sometimes a little too inclined to take his case studies at their word ... The author is also prone to exaggerate the power of Germany ... It is thus a pity that, beyond a brief, tantalizingly upbeat assessment of the U.K.’s prospects after Brexit, Mr. Diamond doesn’t discuss Britain and its past very much. His \'crisis\' framework could usefully be applied.
MixedThe Telegraph... purists may wonder whether we really need another Washington biography. Strictly speaking, the answer has to be: not this one ... The author brings no new evidence to bear and advances no fundamentally new interpretation. The justification for Chernow’s book lies elsewhere: in the fluency of the argument, the wisdom of the author’s judgments, and – despite its length – the tautness of the narrative, which keeps the reader engrossed from the first to the last page. Some stylistic slips and a tendency towards the homespun aside, the author writes well, and has a remarkable eye for telling anecdotes and quotations ... Wisely, Chernow does not explicitly set out to write a biography \'for our times’. All the same, his account bears an obvious message for American readers: big government, far from being a betrayal of the Founding Fathers, is as American as pecan pie.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalPeace at Last, despite its sometimes grim subject, is a pleasure to read and is full of fascinating tidbits ... As one might expect from a literary scholar, Mr. Cuthbertson marshals an impressive range of literary sources.
RaveThe Wall Street JournalBased on a staggering range of primary material and secondary literature, The Vanquished fills a vast canvas ... Mr. Gerwarth vividly captures the brutality of these struggles ... The author takes a dim view of Europe’s postwar leaders, and it is hard to fault him. Their treatment of the vanquished provoked resentment, and they blithely dismantled long-established multinational structures ... As Mr. Gerwarth’s path-breaking study shows, beneath the surface of seeming peace may lie profound divisions that augur strife more than stability.
PositiveThe Wall Street JournalMr. Taylor retells the story compellingly on the basis of recent research, arriving at fresh conclusions along the way ... This sprawling continental history Mr. Taylor conveys with economy, clarity and vividness; his approach is scholarly in method but accessible in manner.