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Brand: Jonathon Fenby


by Jonathon Fenby

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Crucible : Twelve Months That Changed The World Forever

BOOK OF THE WEEK - The Times `The strength of this book lies in the cold realities it delivers. "The thirteen months of 1947-48," writes Fenby, "provide trenchant examples of how realpolitik can serve a wider purpose if those in power know how to use it." Crucible captures perfectly the urgency of the time...Read this book for the light it shines on a turbulent time; cherish it for the lessons it provides' - Gerard DeGroot 'Looking back 70 years Jonathan Fenby argues convincingly that the period from 1947 to 1948 "really did change the world". His book is an assured gallop across the terrain of contemporary history in this fateful year.

The global devastation of the second world war had smashed longstanding institutions and bankrupted empires, leaving behind the kind of power vacuums that were major openings for change and chaos. Crucible swings from one region to the next in a fast-moving account of how local actors filled those vacuums, often with violence.'Mary Sarote, Financial TimesOne year shaped the world we know today. This is the page-turning story of the pivotal changes which were forged in the space of thirteen months of 1947-48 Two years after the end of the second conflict to engulf the world in twenty years, and the defeat of the Axis forces of Germany, Italy and Japan, this momentous time saw the unrolling of the Cold War between Joseph Stalin's Soviet Russia and the Western powers under the untried leadership of Harry Truman as America came to play a global role for the first time.

The British Empire began its demise with the birth of the Indian and Pakistan republics with the flight of millions and wholesale slaughter as Vietnam, Indonesia and other colonies around the globe vied for freedom. 1948 also marked the creation of the state of Israel, the refugee flight of Palestinians and the first Arab-Israeli war as well as the victories of Communist armies that led to their final triumph in China, the coming of apartheid to South Africa, the division of Korea, major technological change and the rolling out of the welfare state against a backdrop of events that ensured the global order would never be the same again. This dynamic narrative spans the planet with overlapping epic episodes featuring such historic figures as Truman and Marshall, Stalin and Molotov, Attlee and Bevin, De Gaulle and Adenauer, Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek, Nehru and Jinnah, Ben Gurion and the Arab leaders.

Between them, they forged the path to our modern world.

Staff Reviews

Jonathan Fenby, a former editor of The Observer and the South China Post, has done readers of modern history a huge service. For most of us, the details and outcome of the 2nd World War stick well in the mind. But the confused and changing period in the latter half of 1947 and the first half of 1948 is much less well remembered. As the Cold War gathered pace, political leaders of all persuasions had to adjust to new circumstances and make decisions whose outcome was hard to predict. In some cases, getting it wrong could have turned the Cold War into a hot one. That this didn't happen was as much a matter of chance as that of statesmanship. Pre-war colonial regimes from the Dutch East Indies to the Gold Coast in Africa felt the winds of change; the United States put aside its isolation and took on the role of world policeman; the US-proposed Marshall Plan was devised - adopted by Western Europe, rejected by the Kremlin and its compliant satellites in Eastern Europe; the seeds of trouble in the Middle East were sown with the ending of the British mandate in Palestine and the creation of the new state of Israel - a conflict between Jew and Arab that is unresolved to this day. Jonathan Fenby's command of detail and his global approach is remarkable. There are incidents and personality profiles recorded that many readers will have forgotten, if they ever knew. His month by month narrative is not the easiest to follow: you can feel some breathlessness in digesting a snapshot of developments in one country before rapidly passing on to another. But the overall picture is a fascinating one and makes one realise how much of our modern world was forged 70-odd years ago. Ian Hay-Campbell Friends of the National Archives http://nationalarchives.gov.uk/get-involved/friends.htm Friends of The National Archives