MixedThe Financial TimesRady has set himself the task of writing a readable account of the rise and fall of this remarkable dynasty, and his sparkling study is certainly a good place to start ... How to tell both the family story and explore the larger history of the empire’s subjects is probably an impossible task. Yet without the latter, the former loses much of its meaning. Conscious of the challenge, Rady gives the reader rich material on the rise of nationalism, the intellectual and cultural atmosphere of the times, and — in some of the most striking passages — the empire’s global reach down into the 19th century. At the same time, there are gaps: there is relatively little on the empire’s economic or infrastructural issues, and while nationality politics is thoughtfully discussed, connections with industrialisation, class consciousness and urbanisation remain opaque ... Rady avoids apologetics. Yet he lets them off the hook too easily as we enter the modern era.
PositiveThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)Owen Matthews tells this story well, with an eye for anecdote and character, and with the help of a vast range of sources. Like those before him, he is fascinated by Sorge the man – his charisma, his drinking, his womanizing, his sheer ruthlessness ... For those who wonder whether individuals can make a difference to history, the case of Richard Sorge will always supply a kind of answer.
Benjamin Carter Hett
PositiveThe Financial TimesWhile Hett does not much address the underlying structural issues that faced Weimar, it is intelligently written and brings out two points ... One is the critical importance of the experience of the first world war and the prevalence of paramilitary violence. Riley’s account is a little bloodless: fascists somehow became hegemonic where liberal elites failed. Hett reminds us that violence was at their core. But he also insists that Hitler did not prevail because Weimar was doing badly. On the contrary, it was doing remarkably well in tough conditions: the end came because conservative elites thought they could use the Nazis for their own purposes and realised their mistake too late.
PositiveThe GuardianHow Democracy Ends contains ...a sense of living in an age in which democracy is taken for granted and thus allowed to disintegrate from within.
PositiveThe GuardianIn Serhii Plokhy’s Lost Kingdom, the Bolshevik years become merely one episode in a longer story of Russian nationalism. Boiling this down chiefly to the question of Russia’s tortured relationship with its western borderlands, Plokhy’s study reads like a background briefing on the current Ukraine crisis ... cast Russia as constantly succumbing to the totalitarian temptation and posit a western alternative that is always just out of reach.
RaveThe GuardianKapka Kassabova has written a marvellous book about a magical part of the world ... Kassabova’s story starts on the other side of that border, over the hill in Bulgaria, and it is full of restlessness. It shows more starkly than anything else I have read what the border did to the people who lived along it, and how its legacy endures ... Eco-tourism beckons, and Kassabova, a poet, writes lyrically and effectively about the astonishing natural beauty of much of the area. But she spends enough time talking to local people and hearing their stories to give us a real sense of the psychic dramas they carry with them as well ... Border offers the reader a large helping of strange inexplicable occurrences and compelling characters, but its author is engaged in something more personal and more engaging than most of her predecessors.
Oona A. Hathaway and Scott J. Shapiro
RaveThe GuardianHathaway and Shapiro’s sparkling book asks how this happened and what it really meant. They take as their starting point a long-forgotten moment in the interwar era’s long history of worthy but meaningless resolutions – the 1928 Kellogg-Briand pact to outlaw war ... They see the pact as ushering in nothing less than a new world order in which war – and the spoils of war – came to be regarded as illegitimate ... This is a marvellously readable book that makes what could have been arcane matters of international jurisprudence comprehensible and lively. Anecdote and colourful characters abound, and the writing rests on a very serious trawl through some farflung archives ...there is much here to enjoy and much to ponder. Is the new world order that Hathaway and Shapiro extol about to pass into history in its turn?
MixedThe Financial Times...a powerful reminder of just how much intellectual labour was required in West Germany to get the country to where it is today, the most historically self-aware democracy in the world ... He circles around the subject of his family’s background in interwar Czechoslovakia but says little about it directly ... this story of a small boy who lost his parents and spent the rest of his life trying to understand what had happened will not lose its importance any time soon.