Modern times : the world from the twenties to the eighties

by Paul Johnson

Hardcover, 1983




New York : Harper & Row, c1983.


"This work is published in England under the title: A history of the modern world: from 1917 to the 1980's"--T.p. verso.

User reviews

LibraryThing member RobertP
A brilliant work of history. Paul Johnson - even if you do not agree with his worldview - is a great writer, and has a pretty solid command of European certainly, and also world history. He is a right-of-centre humanist. His book rails against relative moral values and against the monstrous destruction of human life wrought throughout the 20th century by big governments bent on reforming mankind. Although largely a pessimistic book, it does leave sufficient room for optimism that we - mankind - can survive and indeed do better.
The emphasis throughout on right and wrong is a useful antidote to life in the 21st century, I must say.
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LibraryThing member mhartford
Though Johnson clearly has an axe to grind--his tendencies are libertarian-conservative--this is a solid history of the short 20th century (from the U.S. economic expansion of the '20s to the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe), extremely insightful, and a useful reference for anyone who wants to understand how the awful last century came to pass. He is especially strong on the aftermath of World War II, with the retreat of European imperialism and the chaotic post-colonial world.… (more)
LibraryThing member HadriantheBlind
A grand thousand-page history - just the way I like em. Covers many interlocked subjects and discusses them all in an imaginative and brilliant style. Flows freely from one subject to the other, and includes miniature portraits of the towering figures of the time.

Be warned, this book was written in the latter part of the 20th century, and the author has a fiscal conservative view. Perhaps then it could be justified, as capitalism was at the time a lesser evil than totalitarianism - but now the excesses of the free market have wreaked havoc on the world, and that ideology is starting to fall out of favor. There are some factual errors, too, but they do not detract from the reading experience too much.

Recommended for people who can handle big thick history books and not be overwhelmed by the wealth of information from them.
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LibraryThing member fnielsen
I have not read this 870 page book. However, I have skimmed two parts which I find questionable: Johnson writes about the large Allied bombing of Dresden and that 135,000 were killed. For this number he cites David Irving. Irving's number has been seriously critized and had Johnson had any thorough command of World War II history and historians he would not have faulted there. The second issue is in the beginning chapter 'A relativistic world' where the physical notion of relativity is mentioned along moral anarchy. Relativity just happens to share the name with (moral) relativism. Had Einstein chosen the name 'space-time theory' would Johnson still have mentioned it? I doubt. The mixup of physics hard theories with 'intellectual' social sciences has been ridiculed by Alan Sokal, and I find that Paul Johnson in his opening chapter makes just such a mistake.… (more)
LibraryThing member LisaMaria_C
Paul Johnson is a British journalist, a believing Catholic--and a conservative. That will put some people off--although it's notable I saw more than one review from readers who said in spite of that they found this book incisive and readable. For me it wasn't something off-putting but something I sought out. Having grown up on Manhattan's Upper West Side from kindergarten to college I was exposed almost exclusively to a left-wing narrative of history. I wanted to hear from the other side, and yes you can detect a right-of-center sensibility here. But for that very reason I found invaluable a slant on history that was new to me. And actually a lot related here new to me that isn't necessarily left or right--but just history that, perhaps because Johnson is British, is more rounded and less Americancentric.

I remember in particular his take on the Perons, glamorized in the musical Evita. I was astonished really to learn that at the end of World War Two, Argentina had a standard of living, balance of trade and sound currency comparable to the United States or Great Britain--before the Perons got hold of it. What a might-have-been--if Argentina had not fallen to the Peron from of state one imagines it could have provided a model and source of stability to all of Latin America. I had thought it had always been some poor, banana republic even before Peron--very much not the case. It's surprising little tidbits like this that made the book so worthwhile.
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LibraryThing member KirkLowery
A very readable account of the 20th century. I was fascinated by the account of constant warfare between Serbs, Albanians and in the Baltics. Two world wars didn't change much.
LibraryThing member Razinha
My edition is through the Eighties. Paul Johnson writes tomes of history, and this is no exception. The topic is broad, and he covers a lot, but with enough depth to satisfy.
LibraryThing member namfos
Great book, great survey of 20th Century history and events



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