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Bibliophile price: £1.50
Is it possible to condense the history of the most tumultuous century the world has ever known into one volume? Geoffrey Blainey is Australia's most prominent historian and in his previous book, A Short History of the World, he managed to condense precisely that into one volume to great critical acclaim. Because the dominant theme of the 20th century is that of two shattering world wars it is sometimes easy to forget the spectacular advances that were made in science and technology, the huge social changes as the world became more mobile, cities grew taking in people from traditional rural occupations and yet despite (or perhaps because of) the relentless pace of scientific learning and technological innovation religious turmoil hit an all-time high with the rise of militant Islam. The century started with such promise, especially for Europe, but within a few years empires disintegrated igniting wars and revolutions and economic depressions which brought once great powers to their knees. Totalitarian governments heaped social and economic misery upon their benighted populations and in the Middle East, now rich in oil wealth, old religious divides saw it tear itself apart. What the author does so well here is to address much more mundane concerns alongside these seismic events, things that affected everyday people just as much - how were children raised and educated? Why did cities grow so large? How did new technology influence everyday life and how did films, radio, TV and cars change our social lives? A magnificent achievement, this is history that entertains like a novel yet informs and educates like the best of teachers. 367pp with maps.

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