American Historical Review, Vol. 72 (Oct. 1966 - Jan. 1967), Pp. 123-124.
TRAGEDY AND HOPE: A HISTORY OF THE WORLD IN OUR TIME.
By Carroll Quigley.
(New York: Macmillan Company. 1966. Pp. xi, 1348. $12.50.)
This fascinating, impressive, and important analysis of the contemporary world
-- its historical origins, its present condition, and its prospects -- begins
with an interpretation of the evolution of civilization based on the author's
earlier well-known work on this subject. He then examines in considerable detail
the dynamics of world affairs on the eve of World War I. With this background,
he develops a full-scale review of events from 1914 to 1964. There are many
other studies of this half century, but Professor Quigley's is unique and
invaluable because of his informed and consistent analysis of the intimate
relationship between contemporary history and contemporary science-technology. A
basic weakness of much modern scholarship has been its failure to recognize
adequately this relationship. How unfortunate this is becomes apparent in this
work with its mass of illuminating information and insights concerning the
manifold repercussions of the development of weapons and of the rationalization
of society by the application of game theory, information theory, cybernetics,
symbolic logic, and electronic computing. These, and related techniques, are
transforming not only nations but also the relations between nations. The author
shows in convincing detail the decisive role of the wavering balance of nuclear
weapons in the alternating thawing and freezing that has marked the cold war.
Quigley also bears down heavily on economic development, tracing the evolution
from commercial capitalism to industrial capitalism, finance capitalism,
monopoly capitalism, and finally to what he calls the current pluralist economy.
More important, he emphasizes throughout the political and social repercussions
of this economic evolution, including the close relationship between the Great
Depression and Hitler's triumph.
The over-all thesis of the book is that the nineteenth century was "a period of
materialism, selfishness, false values, hypocrisy, and secret vices"; that the
two world wars and the Great Depression were the terrible fruits of that
century; and that the hope of the twentieth century "rests on its recognition
that war and depression are man-made and needless." It is just as well that
these propositions are recapitulated in the final pages, for the reader, likely
as not, will have lost the line of reasoning by the time he has reached the end
of this massive, rambling hulk of a book. The author obviously is a man of
wide-ranging intellectual interests, but organization definitely is not his
forté. He cannot resist going off on tangents that attract him, so that the
reader continually encounters revealing data and interpretations of topics such
as the historic significance of Britain's island position, the nature of the
German national character, the implications of Hiroshima, and the problems of
child rearing In the United States. The net result is a fascinating but also
frequently confusing work that would be substantially shorter and more effective
if it were properly reorganized and edited.
A final feature of this book is its refreshing candor. Quigley has definite
views and expresses them forthrightly. Considering the vast range of his
subjects, it is not surprising that statements that are extravagant or only
partly true or even completely untrue can be found in virtually every chapter.
But to concentrate on such statements and to ignore the overriding merits of
this study would be grossly unfair and unfortunate. For the author does ask the
important questions, and he does try to answer them honestly and meaningfully --
which is why his book is more significant and challenging than most studies of
L. S. STAVRIANOS
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