In This Review

Europe in the Era of Two World Wars: From Militarism and Genocide to Civil Society, 1900-1950
Europe in the Era of Two World Wars: From Militarism and Genocide to Civil Society, 1900-1950
By Volker R. Berghahn
Princeton University Press, 2005, 172 pp
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This short book by a distinguished historian of modern Europe is an extraordinarily compact account of Europe's transition from a period of extreme violence to a brief period of placid mass consumption, to a period of even greater violence, and, finally, to a more lasting era of mass capitalism and economic globalization under the influence of the United States. Particularly impressive is Berghahn's discussion of how the brutality of colonialism spawned the horrific militarism that swept over the continent itself in World War I, the result of strategic planning "focused on the application of overwhelming force." He also shows how the "recivilization" of the 1920s suffered from multiple weaknesses that led to the Great Depression. The new militarism that followed was both political (the pursuit of foreign policy by military means) and social (the conception of "a society centered around the principles of hierarchy and obedience ... in which the community ... was more highly valued than the individual and individual liberty"). This is a most thought-provoking and penetrating study, based on superb scholarship and written by a masterly mind.