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American Historical Review, Vol. 72 (Oct. 1966 - Jan. 1967), Pp. 123-124.



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 our times.



Northwestern University  



Scan of original review

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