Richard Vinen

On the Edge of Glory

Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West Since the Cold War, 1971–2017


John Murray 870pp £30 order from our bookshop

The great Victorian historian Lord Acton urged his colleagues to study ‘problems in preference to periods’. But sometimes periods are problems. ‘Modern’, ‘medieval’ and, for that matter, ‘Victorian’ are not neutral terms that automatically designate particular dates. Each of them implies an interpretation and a sense that an era can be distinguished from what went before and what came after. How, then, should historians periodise the very recent past? The year 1945 once seemed to mark a clear chronological frontier, but we cannot go on living in the ‘postwar’ era forever.

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