Small Wars, Faraway Places: Global Insurrection and the Making of the Modern World, 1945-1965

Overview

A sweeping history of the Cold War’s many “hot” wars born in the last gasps of empire 

The Cold War reigns in popular imagination as a period of tension between the two post-World War II superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, without direct conflict. Drawing from new archival research, prize-winning historian Michael Burleigh gives new meaning to the seminal decades of 1945 to 1965 by examining the many, largely forgotten, “hot” wars fought around the world. ...

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Small Wars, Faraway Places: Global Insurrection and the Making of the Modern World, 1945-1965

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Overview

A sweeping history of the Cold War’s many “hot” wars born in the last gasps of empire 

The Cold War reigns in popular imagination as a period of tension between the two post-World War II superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, without direct conflict. Drawing from new archival research, prize-winning historian Michael Burleigh gives new meaning to the seminal decades of 1945 to 1965 by examining the many, largely forgotten, “hot” wars fought around the world. As once-great Western colonial empires collapsed, counter-insurgencies campaigns raged in the Philippines, the Congo, Iran, and other faraway places. Dozens of new nations struggled into existence, the legacies of which are still felt today. Placing these vicious struggles alongside the period-defining United States and Soviet standoffs in Korea, Vietnam, and Cuba, Burleigh swerves from Algeria to Kenya, to Vietnam and Kashmir, interspersing top-level diplomatic negotiations with portraits of the charismatic local leaders. The result is a dazzling work of history, a searing analysis of the legacy of imperialism and a reminder of just how the United States became the world’s great enforcer.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Daniel Larson
…a well-researched and readable account of two tumultuous decades. Burleigh judges most of these wars, both small and large, to have been futile and destructive. But while he clearly has no interest in defending or rehabilitating such conflicts, he nonetheless offers a fair, thoughtful assessment of the motives and interests behind them. He also takes care to understand and explain the grievances of the insurgents.
Publishers Weekly
Following the end of WWII, colonial empires collapsed, the Soviet Union and the U.S. dug in for the Cold War, and “hot” conflicts erupted across the globe. In this intriguing history, Burleigh (The Third Reich) surveys these forgotten wars and the people that fought them, ranging in his tale from Southeast Asia to the Middle East, Africa, and the Caribbean. He strikes a good balance between profiling those at the top, such as Winston Churchill (whose decision to remain prime minister in 1953 after suffering a major stroke Burleigh characterizes as “the final, desperate act of a wholly self-centered life”), and those on the ground, like Irene Lee, a Chinese detective who helped destroy the Malayan communist intelligence network after communists killed her husband. Burleigh is hard-hitting in his take on the consequences of the vacuum left behind in the wake of departing colonial powers, especially in his depiction of the Viet Minh’s decisive victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu and Britain’s botched handling of the Suez Crisis. Slyly humorous and wonderfully detailed, Burleigh’s vivid narrative does justice to the lesser-known struggles of a complex era. Agent: Andrew Wylie and Scott Moyers, Wylie Agency (U.K.). (Oct.)
From the Publisher
"The new book "Small Wars, Faraway Places" is the vault of knowledge that followers of current events have been seeking.... From the Mau-Mau Emergency in Kenya to the Korean War... to the French misadventure in Indochina and the clash between Arab nationalism and Zionism in the British Mandate in Palestine, Burleigh traces 18 distinct story lines of terrorism, counter-terrorism, intrigue, nationalism, and Cold War rivalry. With these stories, the reader can find the tangled roots on nearly all of today's nasty hotspots; he or she can even foresee the sort of messes that modern-day conflicts are likely to create down the road, using Burleigh's patient documentation of troubled areas like Malaya and Algeria as templates.... That "Small Wars" eschews easy answers or one-size-fits-all theories about the conflicts that it documents is a tribute to its author."
—James Norton, The Christian Science Monitor

"Michael Burleigh takes on the interaction between the two great geopolitical dramas of decolonization and the Cold War. The book contains a series of vivid, vigorous narratives, illuminated by telling snippets of information, compelling but rarely flattering portraits of the key characters and some trenchant judgments.... Burleigh brings to life forgotten events."
—Lawrence Freedman, The Washington Post

“Burleigh is hard-hitting in his take on the consequences of the vacuum left behind in the wake of departing colonial powers, especially in his depiction of the Viet Minh’s decisive victory over the French at Dien Bien Phu and Britain’s botched handling of the Suez Crisis. Slyly humorous and wonderfully detailed, Burleigh’s vivid narrative does justice to the lesser-known struggles of a complex era.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Agilely written, confidently argued, this is a fine contribution to Cold War history.”
—Booklist 

“With Small Wars, Faraway Places, Michael Burleigh offers a penetrating and often sardonic narrative of the struggles that formed the world as we know it. Blending engaging characters sketches and telling vignettes with geopolitical analysis, he presents the two decades after 1945 from a vantage point that provides illuminating perspective…. Burleigh’s wide-ranging account brings out the relationship between political challenge and response, along with the difficulties in understanding very different societies from the outside.”
—William Anthony Hay, The American Conservative

“A brilliant, complex, contradictory story, replete with character and incident, pungent and pithy and refreshingly free of preaching. . . . The author delights in the detail, the small moment illustrating a large truth.”
—Ben MacIntyre, The Times (London)

“Burleigh nails his cast of politicians, generals and revolutionaries to turn the page in a series of ruthlessly observed character sketches.”
Keith Lowe, author of Savage Continent

“A dramatic saga which Burleigh recounts with panache and wit.”
—Piers Brendon, The Sunday Times (London)

“Burleigh is an equal opportunity moralist, not an ideologue, and he stalks his prey with feline grace. . . . This is a story of personalities as much as one of geological shifts, and Burleigh is a master of bringing it alive with sharp character insights.”
Christopher Silvester, Financial Times

“Burleigh writes with a keen eye for self-righteousness, hypocrisy and unintended consequences. He is quite brilliant at puncturing the vanities of history’s great and good.”
—Dominic Sandbrook, London Evening Standard

“Burleigh is the don of elegant, historical writing and every vignette in this book is arresting. His ability to command his material is truly breathtaking . . . damnably good.”
—John Lewis-Stempel, Sunday Express (London)

Kirkus Reviews
2013-08-15
Acclaimed historian Burleigh (Moral Combat: Good and Evil in World War II, 2012, etc.) returns with a feisty review of two decades of decolonialization. This was "a crucial transitional era in which power tangibly passed from European capitals to the 'World Capital on the Potomac.' " The former colonial powers, ruined by the war, could no longer afford the expenses of empire when increasingly assertive nationalism in the colonies required additional military spending, and the Americans did not want these costs to impede the economic redevelopment of Europe. The Europeans' aim was to buy time to effect a transition of their colonies to a nominal independence that would still allow them to control local economies and resources. They sought American aid for their efforts to repress nationalist movements by fostering a fear that the movements were infiltrated by communists eager to seize power upon independence; sometimes this was the case. As the author observes, many of the issues faced during this period, from effective military responses to insurgencies, remain newsworthy today. With flair and panache, Burleigh surveys a dozen or so of the period's "small wars," including conflicts in Palestine, Malaya, the Philippines, Algeria and Kenya, and shows how the interplay of waning colonialism and the Cold War led to the Cuban missile crisis and the Vietnam War. The author's coverage is serious and thorough, but he also has an eye for the striking detail--e.g., "When naked husbands and wives took the [Mau Mau] oath, they were bound together by the intestines of goats." Along the way, the author delights in deftly skewering hypocrisy, incompetence and delusional thinking on the parts of all participants in this saga. Entertaining, informative and refreshingly devoid of partisan advocacy, Burleigh offers a persuasive explanation of how America assumed the mantle of policeman of the developing world.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670025459
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/12/2013
  • Pages: 608
  • Sales rank: 1,006,836
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 2.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Burleigh is the author of a dozen books, including The Third Reich: A New History, which won the 2001 Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction. His work has been translated into twenty languages, and in 2012 he was awarded the prestigious Nonino International Master of His Time Prize. He lives in London.

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