In the very first sentence of his new book, John Lukacs declares, “There is no serious history of the twentieth century that I know of,” but whatever the shortcomings of other historians of the twentieth century, he has not filled the gap he claims exists. ­Lukacs, prolific historian though he is, is a political animal, exclusively so. A Short History of the Twentieth Century omits or skirts over entire fields of research: cultural and intellectual history, economic and social history—everything, in fact, except politics. I would not recommend this book to anyone who knew nothing about the subject, or who was too young to have lived through any of it: It is too partial, too selective, too partisan to be a primer. 

Nor is it the case that Lukacs knows as much as he thinks he does about some of the fields he does include. He is quite wrong, for example, to praise the partition of India in 1947, which was a disaster for all concerned, both at the time and ever since. He apologizes more than once for making his book so Eurocentric, but Europe is the only continent he knows really well and understands. He is a hedgehog, not a fox. He has one subject, Europe, and one big idea.

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