In This Review
The Columbia History of the 20th Century

The Columbia History of the 20th Century

Edited by Richard W. Bulliet

Columbia University Press, 1998, 651 pp.

This volume attempts to go beyond the frantic list-making that has characterized many end-of-the-century books and delves into the ways the twentieth century has changed the fabric of human life. The 24 thematic chapters focus primarily on everyday life rather than events or personalities. Culture, religion, gender, race, and athletics get their due, as do money, industry, war, and diplomacy. Without offering an overarching thesis, Bulliet's introduction suggests that "culture, economics, technology, and social values seem at least as likely to shape the future of the world as political ideology or territorial conquest."

Among the contributions that stand out, Akira Iriye's "International Order" argues for the rising importance of "cultural internationalism" in universalist approaches toward human rights, environmental protection, and social welfare. Neil DeGrasse Tyson explores the social foundations of scientific discovery, while Kenneth T. Jackson discusses the relentless growth of cities, home to rich and poor, that offer the best and worst of industrial society. The essays provide no collective summary of the twentieth century but serve as a useful starting point for assessment and debate.