The twenty years after the end of the Second World War were in their way as terrifying as the conflict itself. They contained a comparable threat to the world order: the defeat of fascism was followed by the ascendancy of communism. The period also saw the shift of global power away from Europe, where it had historically resided, towards America. By the 1960s the Americans had established a hegemony rivalled only by the Soviet Union – which was still a fair way behind. The great prewar power, Britain, was bankrupt but only gradually understanding its impotence. Within a few months of the Second World War ending, the Cold War had begun.