Small Wars, Faraway Places Summary and Reviews

Small Wars, Faraway Places

Global Insurrection and the Making of the Modern World, 1945-1965

by Michael Burleigh

Small Wars, Faraway Places by Michael Burleigh

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Book Summary

The Cold War reigns in popular imagination as a period of tension between the two post-World War II superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, without direct conflict. Drawing from new archival research, prize-winning historian Michael Burleigh gives new meaning to the seminal decades of 1945 to 1965 by examining the many, largely forgotten, "hot" wars fought around the world. As once-great Western colonial empires collapsed, counter-insurgencies campaigns raged in the Philippines, the Congo, Iran, and other faraway places. Dozens of new nations struggled into existence, the legacies of which are still felt today.

Placing these vicious struggles alongside the period-defining United States and Soviet standoffs in Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba, Burleigh swerves from Algeria to Kenya, to Vietnam and Kashmir, interspersing top-level diplomatic negotiations with portraits of the charismatic local leaders. The result is a dazzling work of history, a searing analysis of the legacy of imperialism and a reminder of just how the United States became the world's great enforcer.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Slyly humorous and wonderfully detailed, Burleigh's vivid narrative does justice to the lesser-known struggles of a complex era." - Publishers Weekly

"Vividly written and stimulating ... the raw truth, conveyed in scintillating language by a master of historical irony and of the grimly entertaining. If history for grown-ups is what you're after, this is it." - George Walden, Sunday Telegraph

"Superb, scholarly, insightful and often witty ... magnificent." - Simon Heffer, Literary Review

"Burleigh is an equal opportunity moralist, not an ideologue, and he stalks his prey with feline grace ... This is a story of personalities as much as one of geopolitical shifts, and Burleigh is a master of bringing it alive with sharp character insights." - Christopher Sylvester, Financial Times

"A brilliant, complex, contradictory story, replete with character and incident, pungent and pithy and refreshingly free of preaching ... the author delights in the detail, the small moment illustrating a large truth." - Ben Macintyre, The Times

"The violent geopolitical shifts of the immediate postwar years constitute a dramatic saga, which Burleigh recounts with panache and wit ... lucid and persuasive." - Piers Brendon, Sunday Times

"Burleigh is the don of elegant, historical writing and every vignette in this book is arresting. His ability to command his material is truly breathtaking ... damnably good." - John Lewis-Stempel, Sunday Express

"Terrific ... Burleigh writes with a keen eye for self-righteousness, hypocrisy and unintended consequences. He is quite brilliant at puncturing the vanities of history's great and good." - Dominic Sandbrook, Evening Standard

"Harsh and vivid" - Max Hastings, Financial Times

"Magnficent and entertaining" - The Express

"None of these stories is new, but the rich detail with which Burleigh writes, as well as his piercing analysis, makes them seem so. He nails his cast of politicians, generals and revolutionaries to the page in a series of ruthlessly observed character sketches ... as a description of the way imperial power drained from Europe to America, his book is quite brilliant." - Keith Lowe, Mail on Sunday

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Michael Burleigh is the author of a dozen books, including The Third Reich: A New History, which won the 2001 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. His work has been translated into twenty languages, and in 2012 he was awarded the prestigious Nonino International Master of His Time Prize. He lives in London.

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