In This Review

A History in Fragments: Europe in the Twentieth Century
A History in Fragments: Europe in the Twentieth Century
By Richard Vinen
Da Capo Press, 2001, 628 pp

Whereas Jackson is a prodigious synthesizer, Vinen is a stimulating accumulator of fragments. Vinen rightly believes that a history of twentieth-century Europe should focus not only on political events but on overlapping "multiple histories." The more political chapters of his book are for readers who already know that history well, and they are not the most interesting. Vinen is more original and sharp when he deals with social history, violence and nationalism, the progressive disintegration of communism, and the transformation of capitalism. Numerous anecdotes and quotations illustrate his points, and his stance throughout is that of a slightly detached observer. Read just after September 11, the volume shows its limits of too much Europe and not enough international context. It would have done well to cover Europe's uneven relations with an increasingly dominant United States, decolonization, Europe's uneasy postimperial consciousness, and the clash between the rich and the poor, the rooted and the uprooted -- from immigrants to terrorists. This criticism may be unkind, however; there is much here to be grateful for.