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Since the days of Marx and Engels, scholars have been writing about communism and what it means to contemporary society. For the past 30 years Brown (politics, emeritus, Oxford Univ.) has devoted his considerable energies to explaining various aspects of the history of communism, especially in the Soviet Union. His 1996 study, The Gorbachev Factor, and his more recent Seven Years That Changed the World are two essential works from the more than a dozen books he has authored. Although his new book compares topically with Robert Harvey's A Short History of Communism and Robert Service's Comrades!: A History of World Communism, Brown's particular strength is his profound knowledge and understanding of the 1980s, when Gorbachev took power and initiated the reform agenda that led (although this was not his intention) to the collapse of Communist rule in the Soviet Union and freedom for Eastern Europe. Brown's study also treats China, Cuba, and other Communist countries, but his analysis is especially impressive for the Soviet Union. A seminal work from a distinguished scholar; highly recommended.