Small Wars, Faraway Places
Global Insurrection and the Making of the Modern World, 1945-1965
By Michael Burleigh
(Viking Adult, Hardcover, 9780670025459, 608pp.)
Publication Date: September 12, 2013
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A sweeping history of the Cold War’s many hot” wars born in the last gasps of empire
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.
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.
"The new book "Small Wars, Faraway Places" is the vault of knowledge that followers of current events have been seeking.... From the Mau-Mau Emergency in Kenya to the Korean War... to the French misadventure in Indochina and the clash between Arab nationalism and Zionism in the British Mandate in Palestine, Burleigh traces 18 distinct story lines of terrorism, counter-terrorism, intrigue, nationalism, and Cold War rivalry. With these stories, the reader can find the tangled roots on nearly all of today's nasty hotspots; he or she can even foresee the sort of messes that modern-day conflicts are likely to create down the road, using Burleigh's patient documentation of troubled areas like Malaya and Algeria as templates.... That "Small Wars" eschews easy answers or one-size-fits-all theories about the conflicts that it documents is a tribute to its author."
--James Norton, The Christian Science Monitor
"Michael Burleigh takes on the interaction between the two great geopolitical dramas of decolonization and the Cold War. The book contains a series of vivid, vigorous narratives, illuminated by telling snippets of information, compelling but rarely flattering portraits of the key characters and some trenchant judgments.... Burleigh brings to life forgotten events."
--Lawrence Freedman, The Washington Post
“Burleigh is hard-hitting in his take on the consequences of the vacuum left behind in the wake of departing colonial powers, especially in his depiction of the Viet Minh’s decisive victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu and Britain’s botched handling of the Suez Crisis. Slyly humorous and wonderfully detailed, Burleigh’s vivid narrative does justice to the lesser-known struggles of a complex era.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Agilely written, confidently argued, this is a fine contribution to Cold War history.”
“With Small Wars, Faraway Places, Michael Burleigh offers a penetrating and often sardonic narrative of the struggles that formed the world as we know it. Blending engaging characters sketches and telling vignettes with geopolitical analysis, he presents the two decades after 1945 from a vantage point that provides illuminating perspective…. Burleigh’s wide-ranging account brings out the relationship between political challenge and response, along with the difficulties in understanding very different societies from the outside.”
—William Anthony Hay, The American Conservative
“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 (London)
“Burleigh nails his cast of politicians, generals and revolutionaries to turn the page in a series of ruthlessly observed character sketches.”
—Keith Lowe, author of Savage Continent
“A dramatic saga which Burleigh recounts with panache and wit.”
—Piers Brendon, The Sunday Times (London)
“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 geological shifts, and Burleigh is a master of bringing it alive with sharp character insights.”
—Christopher Silvester, Financial Times
“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, London Evening Standard
“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 (London)