The Postwar Challenge: Cultural, Social, and Political Change in Western Europe, 1945-1958

In This Review

The Postwar Challenge: Cultural, Social, and Political Change in Western Europe, 1945-1958

Edited by Dominik Geppert
Oxford University Press, 2004
416 pp. $99.00
Purchase

The product of a July 2001 conference organized by the German Historical Institute of London, this book of essays proves that conference papers need not be deadly boring. Eighteen contributions from a variety of western European authors (almost all historians) are rich, thought provoking, carefully argued, and well documented. They range from a reinterpretation of the Marshall Plan, arguing that it saved liberal capitalism without setting up a free market, to a series of essays on how western European nations envisaged the future of the nation-state, to considerations of postwar economic and social modernization. The essays on collective memory and commemorations are subtle and fair, and those on battles over culture bring precision and nuance to such concerns (and to American cultural policies) in both the troubled past and the increasingly problematic present. Rarely has the contrast between historians (with their prudence and embrace of complexity) and economists, sociologists, and political scientists (with their frequent tendency to sacrifice complexity to theoretical simplicity) been better demonstrated.