Donald Rayfield

How the West Won

Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy, 1453 to the Present

By

Allen Lane/The Penguin Press 698pp £30 order from our bookshop

Brendan Simms made his name in 2001 with Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia, a fiery denunciation that deplored the impotence of Europe and the intellectual cowardice, if not dishonesty, of British politicians such as David Owen and Douglas Hurd, who let the Serbs shed so much blood for so long. As happens when a brilliant lecturer is rewarded with a professorship, savage indignation simmers down into a calm, even complacent acceptance of the Machiavellian principles underlying history. This makes Europe: The Struggle for Supremacy more informative than provocative, and mildly disappointing. The book fails to explore what the blurb hints at: that Europe owes its supremacy to qualities and political strategies that others, say the Chinese or Arabs, were incapable of sustaining. Perhaps no European can write of Europe’s supremacy with real polemical verve. A history of Europe written by an African, an Indian or a South American might be able to inject savage indignation into the narrative.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • Sign up to our email newsletter below! Get free articles, highlights from the archive, and chances to win theatre… ,
    • RT : Founded in 1979, is a trusted independent source for reviews of new books across a variety of genres. A… ,
    • RT : Here we are - "Shelf Indulgence" by Ed Potten, a wonderful read, well worth your time: @Lit_Review,
    • 'Like going to a party hoping to get away as quickly as politeness allowed and at 4am finding myself still engrosse… ,
    • 'Neville never shed his sense of being the junior, and perhaps least-deserving Chamberlain.' From the archive, Mic… ,
    • 'The erecting and immediate destruction of a series of straw men rather detracts from what is for the most part an… ,
    • RT : A magnificent demolition job on this "acid laced tirade...unpleasantly self-obsessed...self pitying polemic...book… ,